Russian Elections: PM Modi Congratulates Putin on Victory
Russian President Vladimir Putin won a landslide re-election victory on Sunday, 18 March, extending his rule over the world's largest country for another six years at a time when his ties with the West are on a hostile trajectory, partial official results declared.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a telephonic conversation with Putin, congratulated him on his victory and expressed hope that under the latter's leadership, 'Special & Privileged Strategic Partnership' between India and Russia will continue to grow.
According to a statement by the Ministry of External Affairs, PM Modi also stated he looks forward to welcoming Putin to India for the Annual Summit later this year.
Putin's victory will extend his total time in office to nearly a quarter of a century, until 2024, by which time he will be 71. Only Soviet dictator Josef Stalin ruled for longer. Putin has promised to use his new term to beef up Russia's defences against the West and to raise living standards.
In a widely expected outcome, the Central Election Commission, with just over 70 percent of the votes counted, announced that Putin, who has dominated the political landscape for the last 18 years, had won 75.9 percent of the vote.
Putin Thanks Voters for Elections Triumph, Rubbishes Claims of ‘Poisoning’ Spy in Britain
Following the Commission’s announcement, Putin thanked voters for their support at a victory rally and said Russia had a great future ahead of it provided its people stayed united.
Putin, speaking from a stage just off Moscow's Red Square in front of a cheering audience, said the election result was a recognition of what had been achieved in the past few years, despite difficult 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."
He also said it was nonsense to think that Moscow would have poisoned former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, who are critically ill in a British hospital.
Britain has said that Skripal and his daughter were poisoned by the Soviet-era 'Novichok' nerve agent, and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said on Sunday that Russia has been stockpiling it and investigating how such weapons could be used in assassinations.
But Putin, in his first detailed comments on the poisoning, said Russia had been falsely accused.
Despite the tensions, Putin said Moscow was ready to cooperate with London.
"...We are ready to cooperate, we said that straight away, we are ready to take part in the necessary investigations, but for that there needs be a desire from the other side, and we don't see that yet. But we are not taking it off the agenda, joint efforts are possible."
"As a whole, of course, I think any sensible person would understand that it would be rubbish, drivel, nonsense, for Russia to embark on such an escapade on the eve of a presidential election. It's just unthinkable."
Before leaving the stage to applause, he led the crowd in a chant of "Russia, Russia!"
Putin Loyalists Hail Victory
Backed by state TV, the ruling party, and credited with an approval rating around 80 percent, his victory was never in doubt. His nearest challenger, Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin, got just over 11 percent, according to exit polls, while nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky got around 6 percent.
None of the seven candidates who ran against him posed a threat, and opposition leader Alexei Navalny was barred from running. Critics alleged that officials had compelled people to come to the polls to ensure that voter boredom at the one-sided contest did not lead to a low turnout.
Putin loyalists said the result was a vindication of his tough stance towards the West.
"I think that in the United States and Britain they've understood they cannot influence our elections," Senator Igor Morozov said on state television.
Valentina Matviyenko, a close Putin ally and speaker of the upper house of parliament, hailed the victory as a moral one over the West.
"Our elections have proved once again ... that it's not possible to manipulate our people," she said. "People came together. No other country in the world has such open and transparent elections."
The immediate question is if and when opponents like Navalny organise protests, citing fraud, and how large and sustained those protests will be. A senior opposition politician has warned they could descend into street clashes if police crack down too hard on demonstrators.
The longer-term question is whether Putin will soften his anti-Western rhetoric now the election is won.
Putin's Huge Victory Deflates, Divides Russian Opposition
Russian President Vladimir Putin's crushing re-election victory puts his opponents in a tough spot.
They gathered widespread examples of apparent voting violations in Sunday's vote, but that’s unlikely to seriously damage Putin given his widespread support.
With 99.8 percent of the vote counted, results showed Putin won almost 77 percent of the vote, well up from his showing in the last election in 2012.
His closest rival, communist Pavel Grudinin, had less than 12 percent. The only candidate to openly criticise Putin in the campaign, TV star Ksenia Sobchak, got less than 2 percent.
Putin's most serious foe, opposition leader Alexei Navalny, was barred from the race. He clashed publicly with Sobchak on Sunday night, accusing her of being a Kremlin stooge.
(With inputs from Reuters, AP)