LONDON, March 6 (UPI) -- Irregularities identified by the OSCE during presidential elections in Russia during the weekend shouldn't be overlooked, the British foreign secretary said.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin secured more than 60 percent of the vote in a weekend presidential election. His closest rival, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, came in second with 17.2 percent of the votes cast.
Observers with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Putin's challengers were able to compete openly, though conditions were skewed in his favor. Similar complaints were issued by the OSCE after Putin's United Russia party secured a victory in State Duma elections in December.
"These issues should not be overlooked," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement. "A Russia with greater political freedoms, including the registration of political parties, freedom of assembly and freedom of the media is in the interests of Russians and of the wider world."
Human Rights Watch said Putin should undertake key reforms once he begins his third non-consecutive term as president.
Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, praised Moscow for doing little to interfere with public demonstrations during the campaign.
"Russia's president can effectively demonstrate continued commitment to the rule of law by taking some straightforward, concrete steps during his first 100 days in office," he said in a statement.