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Russian President and Presidential candidate Vladimir Putin at a polling station during the presidential election in Moscow, Russia March 18, 2018. Yuri Kadobnov/POOL via Reuters

Putin easily wins another six-year term, firms grip on Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin won a landslide re-election victory on Sunday, 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.

Putin’s thumping 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 result, an exit poll by pollster VTsIOM showed Putin, who has already dominated the political landscape for the last 18 years, had won 73.9 percent of the vote. Backed by state TV, the ruling party, and credited with an approval rating around 80 percent, his victory was never in doubt. 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.

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