Vladimir Putin Wins Russian Election in Stunning Upset

Contradicting opinions over lawfulness of Russian elections

Putin eyes fourth term in polls as opposition cries foul

That percentage is larger than his previous election margin-of-victory in 2012, where Putin scored a comparatively paltry 63.6% of the vote.

With 99.8% of the votes counted, Putin won with 76.7%, according to Central Election Commission data.

The second-place finisher was millionaire Pavel Grudinin, with 13% of the vote.

After 18 years in power, Putin will start a new six-year term and retain his grip on Russian Federation until 2024. "I mean everyone who voted today and due to the position of whom this very decent result emerged", Sputnik news quoted the President as saying here on Sunday night. The major goal for Russian authorities is producing a big turnout that will hand Putin the legitimacy he craves and provide a convincing mandate for his fourth term.

Polling at around 70 percent, the 65-year-old former KGB officer is certain to extend his term to 2024 despite a lacklustre campaign and his refusal to participate in televised debates.

Kremlin officials privately acknowledge some voters are reluctant to show up and vote, even if they support Putin, because they believe his victory is already a foregone conclusion. Just weeks ago, he announced that Russian Federation has developed advanced nuclear weapons capable of evading missile defences. In Moscow, authorities spent $870,000 on balloons and decorations at polling stations.

Sunday's election was the first presidential vote on the Crimean peninsula since Moscow annexed the territory from Ukraine in 2014, prompting a further decline in Russia's relations with the West.

Navalny, whose group also monitored the vote, dismissed Putin's challengers on Sunday's ballot as "puppets".

"The longer he stays in power, the harder it will be to exit", said Andrei Kolesnikov, senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center, a think tank.

In his next six years, Putin is likely to assert Russia's power overseas even more strongly.

The election came with Russian Federation facing increasing isolation on the world stage over a spy poisoning in Britain and a fresh round of USA sanctions.

Putin had faced a serious opposition movement then but has since boosted his popularity with Russia's actions in Ukraine and Syria.

Given the lack of real competition, authorities struggled against voter apathy, in the process putting many of Russia's almost 111 million voters under intense pressure to cast ballots.

Sky News reported that younger voters were offered free pop concert tickets, older voters free cancer screenings, and money was lavished on festooning polling stations in balloons and decorations.

Official turnout figures in different regions of Russian Federation are being inflated by as much as 18 percentage points, opposition leader Alexey Navalny said on Twitter, citing data compiled by his observers at polling stations.

Ella Pamfilova, the head of the government-controlled election committee, said there were "relatively few" violations on election day.

The election took place on the fourth anniversary of Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea, which led to an array of United States and European sanctions.

However, Russians living in Ukraine were not allowed to participate.

Officials were also reported to have strong-armed millions of students and government employees, as well as workers at private companies that rely on state contracts, into voting.

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