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Vladimir Putin condemned after landslide win in sham election gives him six more years in power

Vladimir Putin condemned after landslide win in sham election gives him six more years in power

Vladimir Putin has been condemned by world leaders after a landslide win in a sham election gave him six more years in power.

The dictator won Russia's presidential election with 87.97% of the vote, according to the first official results on Sunday after polls closed.

The vote has taken place against the backdrop of the harshest crackdown on political opposition and freedom of speech in Russia since Soviet times.

Only three token candidates — and no one who opposes his war in Ukraine — were allowed to run against him as he sought a fifth term.

Russia's Central Election Commission said Putin had 87.97% of the vote with 24.4% of the precincts counted.

Putin hailed the overwhelming early results as an indication of "trust" and "hope" in him - while critics saw them as another reflection of the preordained nature of the election.

"Of course, we have lots of tasks ahead. But I want to make it clear for everyone: When we were consolidated, no one has ever managed to frighten us, to suppress our will and our self-conscience. They failed in the past and they will fail in the future," Putin said at a meeting with volunteers after polls closed.

Votes being counted in Saint Petersburg (REUTERS)
Votes being counted in Saint Petersburg (REUTERS)

Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron said: “The polls have closed in Russia, following the illegal holding of elections on Ukrainian territory, a lack of choice for voters and no independent OSCE monitoring.

“This is not what free and fair elections look like.”

A White House National Security Council spokesperson said: “The elections are obviously not free nor fair given how Mr. Putin has imprisoned political opponents and prevented others from running against him.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Putin was “simulating” an election.

He said: “It is clear to everyone in the world that this figure, as it has already often happened in the course of history, is simply sick for power and is doing everything to rule forever.

"There is no legitimacy in this imitation of elections and there cannot be. This person should be on trial in The Hague. That's what we have to ensure."

Germany’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “The pseudo-election in Russia is neither free nor fair, the result will surprise nobody. Putin's rule is authoritarian, he relies on censorship, repression & violence. The "election" in the occupied territories of Ukraine are null and void & another breach of international law."

The early result means Putin, who came to power in 1999, looks to have easily won a new six-year term that would enable him to overtake Josef Stalin and become Russia's longest-serving leader for more than 200 years.

Speaking on Sunday night, Putin said Russia's priority must be to solve the tasks associated with what he calls Moscow's 'special military operation' in Ukraine and make the army stronger.

Putin said he would do everything he could to solve those tasks and the targets he and his administration consider a priority.

He also warned the presence of Western troops in Ukraine could lead the world to the brink of World War Three, but said he did not think anyone was interested in such a scenario

The vote comes only weeks after the death of Putin's fiercest political foe, Alexei Navalny, who died in an Arctic prison.

In his victory speech, Putin said he had agreed to a prisoner swap involving Navalny before his death in prison last month and said it was sad when someone died.

Putin said the main condition for the exchange was that Navalny would not return to Russia.

Other potential opponents have been jailed or exiled and independent monitoring of the election is extremely limited.Navalny's associates urged those unhappy with Putin or the war to protest by coming to the polls at noon on Sunday — and lines outside a number of polling stations both inside Russia and at its embassies around the world appeared to swell at that time.Among those heeding call was his widow, Yulia Navalnaya, who joined a long line at the Russian Embassy in Berlin as some in the crowd applauded and chanted her name.She spent more than five hours in the line and told reporters after casting her vote she wrote her late husband's name on the ballot.Asked whether she had a message for Putin, Navalnaya replied: "Please stop asking for messages from me or from somebody for Mr. Putin. There could be no negotiations and nothing with Mr. Putin, because he's a killer, he's a gangster."

Yulia Navalnaya (AFP via Getty Images)
Yulia Navalnaya (AFP via Getty Images)