Putin claims victory in Russian election

March 4, 2012 at 11:15 PM
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MOSCOW, March 4 (UPI) -- A triumphant and teary Vladimir Putin claimed victory Sunday in Russia's presidential elections, setting the stage for his third term.

Putin has spent the last four years as Russia's prime minister.

The BBC reported opposition groups have called for mass protests Monday in Moscow because of alleged voting fraud and the exclusion of genuine opposition candidates from the ballot.

But tens of thousands of Putin supporters gathered outside the Kremlin for a concert to celebrate his victory, the report said. The Wall Street Journal said after more than 60 percent of the vote had been counted, the results showed Putin had won 64 percent of the vote.

Appearing briefly with his ally and current President Dmitry Medvedev, the BBC said, Putin became teary and declared, "We have shown that our people can easily tell apart the desire for novelty and renewal from political provocations that have only one goal in mind -- to break up the Russian state and to usurp power."

Millions of Russians voted Sunday for a new president as various national media predicted a return to the presidency for Putin.

The 59-year-old was forced to step down from the presidency in 2008 because of term limits after two 4-year stints. He then became prime minister.

Election officials told the RIA Novosti news agency more than 30 percent of some 110 million eligible voters had cast ballots by 1 p.m.

Medvedev, whom the agency described as "hand-picked" by Putin, will see his term end in May.

Russia held parliamentary elections in December that gave Putin and his United Russia party a majority, although claims of vote-rigging and election fraud led to violent demonstrations throughout the country.

As a result, Putin used his largely ceremonial power to order Web video cameras be installed in 91,000 of the country's 96,000 polling stations, the report said.

Additionally, some 700 observers from predominantly European organizations were monitoring voting, the news agency said.

Three votes in the election came from space as three cosmonauts orbiting in the International Space Station over Hawaii cast their ballots in a secured radio exchange with mission control, RIA Novosti said.

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