MOSCOW -UNS- Vladimir Putin has won a fourth presidential term polls with more than 74 per cent of the vote, according to exit polls.
The public opinion foundation said 77 per cent of voters had elected Mr Putin, while the state pollster WCIOM said he got just under 74 per cent.
The central electoral commission was reporting a total turnout of 60 per cent as Russia’s westernmost region conducted its last hour of voting. That number is less than the 65 per cent the Kremlin reportedly wanted to achieve, despite reports of falsifications.
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny said the officially reported turnout exceeded what his observers had counted by 25 per cent in the Altai republic, 18 per cent in the Perm region and 12 per cent in the Kemerovo region.
A survey by a state pollster this month predicted that he would get nearly 70 per cent of the vote, but Mr Navalny has called for a voter boycott to depress the turnout forMr Putin’s “re-appointment”.
The president cast his ballot on Sunday morning at polling station number 2151 in the gold-topped headquarters of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, where he has voted since his first election to lead the country in 2000.
Asked after voting what result he would consider successful, Mr Putin responded: “Any that gives me the right to hold the office of president.”
On Russia’s Pacific Coast, where the polls opened first, the authorities were reporting record turnout. The head of the Kamchatka regional electoral commission said participation had reached nearly 64 per cent with two hours left to vote.
Among those who voted in the Russian election was Gérard Depardieu, the ever controversial French film star who was awarded Russian citizenship by Vladimir Putin in 2013. Depardieu, 69, cast his ballot at the Russian embassy in Paris.
But evidence of falsifications had already begun to tarnish the results. In the Kamchatka region alone, independent vote monitor Golos received more than 40 complaints, mostly about urns that were hidden from surveillance cameras. A voter in Ust-Kamchatsk said local school authorities had threatened teachers in a memo that they would be fired if they didn’t vote.
Videos from Chechnya, where Mr Putin won 99 per cent of the vote in 2012, and several other regions showed people stuffing ballots into urns.
Mr Navalny tweeted a video from a state election monitoring site showing a woman stuffing ballots in the Primorsk region.