Putin is back: Reports of fraud dominate Russian election

Tears roll down Putin's cheeks as he addresses crowds last night in Moscow.
Tears roll down Putin's cheeks as he addresses crowds last night in Moscow.

By Ian Dunt

The Foreign Office is pointedly waiting for reports from election monitors in Russia before commenting on Vladimir Putin's victory in the presidential elections.

Exit polls gave the former president, who is allowed to run a third time after sitting out one term as prime minister, 60% of the vote.

"We fully support the importance of democratic elections in Russia, as elsewhere in the world," a Foreign Office spokesperson said.

"As a Council of Europe member state, Russia has an obligation to uphold key democratic norms and standards."

The government is waiting for the preliminary report from election observers "with interest", the spokesperson added.

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said: "Given the allegations that have already emerged of undemocratic practises, there are real questions to be answered about the election results in Russia. 

"The Russian authorities should be in no doubt that the world will be watching their actions closely in the coming hours and days."

Downing Street said it was concerned about the way the election had been conducted but admitted the result was decisive.

"We have a constructive relationship with Russia. We want that continue. That relationship allows us to advance our national interest," the prime minister's spokesman said.

"Clearly there are issues where we do not agree. We made that clear when we visited Russia. But that should not prevent us working together on those issues where there is a common interest."

Mr Putin could be seen with tears rolling down his cheeks last night, as he addressed a rally of supporters in central Moscow last night.

"I promised you we would win, and we won," he said.

"We have won in an open and honest battle. We proved that no-one can force anything on us.

"Glory to Russia."

Some reports suggested some parts of the crowd had been forced to appear.

Today will see protesters take to the streets to voice their distrust of the result, surrounded by up to 12,000 police and troops, who are expected to form a ring of steel around the capital.

Mr Putin's usual confident style will have to take some account of the newfound protest movement springing up against his rule, which includes many members of the middle classes in St Petersburg and Moscow.

The disparate opposition movement will hold a demonstration in Pushkin Square, central Moscow, this evening.

While electoral fraud reports are mostly unconfirmed, activists wasted no time uploading videos and reports of vote-rigging on to the internet yesterday.

Golos, Russia's main election watchdog, said it had received numerous reports of 'carousel voting', where groups of people are taken to several different polling stations. The ploy has been reported before, during a parliamentary poll in December.

Over 150 observers are also reported to have been illegally removed from polling stations by police.

With preliminary reports showing Mr Putin on 64%, he easily outperformed his chief rival, Gennady Zyuganov, who scored 17% and quickly took to the news stations to brand the result "unfair and unworthy".

While Mr Putin would almost certainly have won even under a fair vote, he avoided a second round by scoring above 50%.


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