Vladimir Putin wins Kremlin in disputed Russia election
Vladimir Putin triumphed in Russia’s presidential election on Sunday and, tears rolling down his cheeks, called his victory a turning point that had prevented the country falling into the hands of enemies.
Putin’s opponents complained of widespread fraud, refused to recognise the results and said they would press ahead on Monday with the biggest protests since he rose to power 12 years ago.
But the former KGB spy said he had won a “clean” victory and was on course to return to the Kremlin after four years as prime minister with almost 65% of votes, partial results showed.
“I promised you we would win. We have won. Glory to Russia," Putin, dressed in an anorak and flanked by outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev, told tens of thousands of flag-waving supporters at a late-evening victory rally under the red walls of the Kremlin.
Denouncing attempts to “destroy Russia's statehood and usurp power", he said: "The Russian people have shown on Monday that such scenarios will not succeed in our land ... They shall not pass!"
The crowd at one point chanted: "Putin! Putin! Putin!" Some danced to keep warm and drank vodka from plastic glasses, with empty bottles crunching underfoot. It was a defiant and angry speech which left Putin, 59, on collision course with the mainly middle-class protesters in Moscow and other big cities who have staged huge rallies since a disputed parliamentary poll on December 4.
International election observers said Putin was given a clear advantage over his rivals in the media and that state resources were used at a regional level to support his bid for a third presidential term.
“DECLARATION OF WAR”
Two exit polls showed Putin with 58-59% of the votes and incomplete results showed him winning more than 64 %.
His nearest rival, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, had about 17 percent of votes, and nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, former parliamentary speaker Sergei Mironov and billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov were all below 10%, although Prokhorov won plaudits for his campaign.
Zyuganov said his party would not recognise the result and called the election “illegitimate and untransparent”. Liberal leader Vladimir Ryzhkov also said it was not legitimate.