Vladimir Putin wins a fourth term as Russia’s president, adding six years in the Kremlin for the man who has led the world’s largest country for all of the 21st century.
The Russian leader’s popularity remains high despite his suppression of dissent and reproach from the West over Russia’s increasingly aggressive stance in world affairs and alleged interference in the 2016 US election.
Putin addressed thousands of people who rallied outside the Kremlin on Sunday to thank them for their support and promised new achievements, the Press Association reported.
Speaking to a crowd who attended a pop concert marking his election victory, the 65-year-old hailed those who voted for him as a “big national team”, adding that “we are bound for success”.
He said that the nation needs unity to move forward and urged the audience to “think about the future of our great motherland”.
He then led the enthusiastic crowd to chant “Russia!”
Results from more than half of precincts showed Putin winning over 75% of the vote, with Communist candidate Pavel Grudinin and ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky trailing far behind with about 13 and 6%, respectively.
The election came amid escalating tensions between Russia and the West, with reports that Moscow was behind the nerve-agent poisoning this month of a former Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal, in Britain and that its internet trolls had mounted an extensive campaign to undermine the 2016 US presidential election.
Britain and Russia last week announced tit-for-tat diplomat expulsions over the spy case and the United States issued new sanctions.
Russian officials denounced both cases as efforts to interfere in the Russian election.
In London, anti-Putin protestors gathered outside the Russian embassy as voters queued to cast their ballot int he presidential election.