Vladimir Putin addresses Red Square crowds after landslide win as West condemns ‘undemocratic’ election | World News

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Vladimir Putin has been cheered by large crowds in central Moscow after securing his fifth term as Russian president – in what Western nations have condemned as an “undemocratic” election.

Thousands of people had gathered for an open-air concert to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Russian annexation of Crimea, which is internationally recognised as part of Ukraine.

In Moscow’s Red Square, they greeted Mr Putin who received more than 87% of the votes, according to the country’s central election commission.

Vladimir Putin at a rally to mark the 10th anniversary of the Russian annexation of Crimea. Pic: Reuters
Image:
Vladimir Putin at a rally to mark the 10th anniversary of the Russian annexation of Crimea. Pic: Reuters

Ukraine war latest: All glory to Russia,’ Putin tells Red Square

The president, who is set to extend his near 25-year rule until 2030, gained his highest-ever tally of nearly 76 million votes, the commission added.

Mr Putin was joined on stage by his three token challengers, Nikolai Kharitonov, Leonid Slutsky and Vladislav Davankov, as he told the crowds “all glory to Russia”, ahead of the Russian national anthem playing.

In 2022, Moscow seized four other Ukraine regions which it declared parts of Russia, in actions denounced as illegal by most countries at the UN.

Mr Putin told the crowds that the “return” of those other regions to Russia had ended up being “much more grave and tragic” than Crimea’s, but it had been accomplished.

Sunday was the last of three days of balloting that offered Russians no real alternatives to Mr Putin after he ruthlessly cracked down on dissent.

At a news conference, Mr Putin said his election victory showed that the people had “trust” and “hope” in him.

He said protests had “no effect” and any “crimes” would be punished after the vote.

He also referenced his fiercest political foe Alexei Navalny by name for the first time in years when he stated he had been ready to release him in a swap for unidentified inmates in Western custody days before the opposition leader’s death.

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‘Noon against Putin’ protest had ‘no effect’

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Mr Putin also said the presence of Western troops in Ukraine will “lead the world to the brink of World War Three” but did not think anyone was interested in such a scenario.

The election took place after a relentless crackdown on dissent – and amid attacks within Russia by Ukrainian missiles and drones, which have killed several people.

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How Russians protested the election

Independent monitoring of the election was very limited and analysts said online polling meant the vote was highly susceptible to manipulation.

Also, any public criticism of Mr Putin or his war in Ukraine was stifled, with critics either in jail or in exile.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said: “These Russian elections starkly underline the depth of repression under President Putin’s regime, which seeks to silence any opposition to his illegal war.

“Putin removes his political opponents, controls the media, and then crowns himself the winner. This is not democracy.”

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Cheers for Yulia Navalnaya at anti-Putin protest

Mr Navalny’s associates had urged those unhappy with Mr Putin or the war to protest by coming to the polls at noon on Sunday – and lines outside a number of polling stations both inside Russia and at its embassies around the world appeared to swell at that time.

Among those heeding the call was Yulia Navalnaya, Mr Navalny’s widow, who joined a long line at the Russian Embassy in Berlin as some in the crowd applauded and chanted her name.

She spent more than five hours in the queue and told reporters after casting her vote that she wrote her late husband’s name on the ballot.

The OVD-Info group that monitors political arrests said 80 people were arrested in 20 cities across Russia on Sunday.

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