Putin wins easily

MOSCOW – 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.

Mr Putin’s victory will take his political dominance of Russia to nearly a quarter of a century, until 2024, by which time he will be 71.

Only Soviet dictator Josef Stalin ruled for longer. Mr 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 outcome, the Central Election Commission, with just more than 70 per cent of the votes counted, announced that Mr Putin, who has dominated the political landscape for the past 18 years, had won 75.9 per cent of the vote.

In a victory speech near Red Square, Mr Putin told a cheering crowd he interpreted the win as a vote of confidence in what he had achieved in tough conditions.

“It’s very important to maintain this unity.

“We will think about the future of our great motherland,” said Mr Putin, before leading the crowd in repeated chants of “Russia!”

He told a meeting of supporters afterwards that difficult times were ahead, but that Russia had a chance to make “a breakthrough.”

Backed by state TV, the ruling party, and credited with an approval rating about 80 per cent, his victory was never in doubt.

His nearest challenger, Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin, got about 13 per cent, according to partial results, while nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky got about 6 per cent.

None of the seven candidates who ran against him posed a threat.