Vladimir Putin won Russia’s presidential election on Sunday with almost 74 per cent of the vote. His fourth term as the president will extend until 2024, making him the first Kremlin leader to serve two decades in power since Josef Stalin.
According to American daily newspaper The Washington Post, opponents on the ballot included a nationalist, a Communist and two liberals. But Putin barely campaigned, opposition activist Alexei Navalny was barred from the ballot, and reports of ballot-stuffing and people being ordered to vote by their employers rolled in throughout the day.
With about two-thirds of the ballots counted, more than 75 per cent were for Putin. The runner-up was Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin, with 12.7 per cent, the daily reported.
In a victory speech near Red Square, Putin told a cheering crowd he interpreted the win as a vote of confidence in what he had achieved in tough conditions.
"It's very important to maintain this unity. We will think about the future of our great Motherland," said Putin, before leading the crowd in repeated chants of "Russia!" He told a meeting of supporters afterwards that difficult times were ahead, but that Russia had a chance to make "a breakthrough."