Putin wins fourth term, opponents say vote rigged

Vladimir Putin is widely expected to win a fourth term by a huge margin and extend his rule until at least 2024

Putin receives more votes than ever in history of recent Russian presidential campaigns

Powerful Russian leader Vladimir Putin has been re-elected as the president of Russia after securing more than 76% of votes according to official results.

"In a widely-expected result, an exit poll by pollster VTsIOM showed Putin, who has already dominated the political landscape for the last 18 years, had won 73.9 percent of the vote".

Natalia Lobzhanidze is the director of School no. 3 in Ust-Djeguta, in the Karachayevo-Cherkessia region of southern Russian Federation, which is hosting polling station number 215.

Russian election authorities have annulled voting results in five districts as they investigate ballot stuffing and other problems in the presidential election.

The only whiff of a challenge from competitors came from Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin, who garnered a smidge over 11% of the vote.

None of the seven candidates who ran against him posed a threat, and opposition leader Alexei Navalny was barred from running.

The US, which has backed the UK's condemnation of Russia, recently imposed sanctions on a group of Russians over alleged interference in the 2016 election.

The last record was set by Dmitri Medvedev in 2008, who won the presidency with 52.5 million votes.

Since he took the helm in Russia on New Year's Eve 1999 after Boris Yeltsin's surprise resignation, Putin's electoral power has centered on stability, a quality cherished by Russians after the chaotic breakup of the Soviet Union and the "wild capitalism" of the Yeltsin years.

The race also included Ksenia Sobchak, a former reality TV host, and veteran nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky - they got less than 2% and about 6% respectively.

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Putin thanked all voters for their support at his win and said Russian Federation had a great future ahead of it provided its people stayed united.

And sure enough, the Central Election Commission claimed Sunday it had been the target of a hacking attempt.

The independent Golos Association, an election watchdog, said Monday that there had been irregularities with the presidential vote "not only on voting days but throughout the campaign". "We will think about the future of our great Motherland".

"For now it's just one Putin, and other candidates are a circus - we don't really have an option", he told CNN outside a Moscow cafe on Sunday night.

The doctor, who gave her name only as Yekaterina because of fears about repercussions, said she and her co-workers were told to fill out forms detailing not only where they would cast their ballots, but also told to give the names and details of two "allies" whom they promise to persuade to go vote.

"Will I be doing this till I am a hundred years old?" he asked, before responding, "No".

But Putin's supporters said Western pressure on Putin including Britain's accusations in a spy row and the Olympic doping ban prompted Russians to close ranks behind their leader.

Russia's parliament, which is controlled by Putin's United Russia party, moved the vote date back to March 18 to coincide with the fourth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

After the victory, Putin's campaign spokesperson Andrei Kondrashov credited British Prime Minister Theresa May with the unexpectedly high turnout, saying: "Every time they accuse us of something unfounded, Russian Federation unites".

The election took place on the fourth anniversary of Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, which provoked worldwide criticism, but boosted Putin's popularity at home.

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