Putin heads for big win in fraud-tainted vote

Putin wins another six years at Russia's helm in landslide victory

Putin heads for big win in fraud-tainted vote

Putin was widely expected to win his fourth term as President, with no meaningful opposition in the running and his fiercest opponent, Alexei Navalny, barred from the race. The other candidates, Ms. Nazarchuk declared, were "imposters" who could never rule Russian Federation.

Before leaving the stage to applause, he led the crowd in a chant of "Russia, Russia!"

The election came amid escalating tensions between Russia and the West, with reports that Moscow was behind the nerve-agent poisoning this month of a former Russian double agent in Britain and that its internet trolls had mounted an extensive campaign to undermine the 2016 USA presidential election.

Putin, speaking from a stage just off Moscow's Red Square in front of a cheering audience, said the election result was a recognition of what had been achieved in the past few years, despite hard conditions.

Sobchak called on Putin's critics to "come together".

"I think that in the United States and Britain they've understood they can not influence our elections", Senator Igor Morozov said on state television.

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Critics think Sobchak has the tacit support of the Kremlin so that the election appears more democratic, which she denies.

The only real headache for Mr Putin's campaign was the possibility many voters, including his supporters, would not bother to come to the polls because they felt the outcome was already a foregone conclusion.

The presidential term was extended from four to six years, starting in 2012.

Commission chair Ella Pamfilova told reporters that it was a DDoS, or distributed denial of service, attempt tracked to computers in 15 countries, without naming them.

Russian cities have been plastered with billboards touting Sunday's election - "Your country, our president, our choice!" By 5pm Moscow time, authorities said turnout had hit almost 52 per cent.

Millions of ethnic Russians live in Ukraine but the number of registered Russian voters in Ukraine is unclear.

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Crimea and Russia's subsequent support of separatists in eastern Ukraine led to an array of U.S. and European sanctions that, along with falling oil prices, damaged the Russian economy and slashed the ruble's value by half.

Ukrainian leaders are also angry over Russian support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, where fighting that has killed at least 10,000 people since 2014 continues.

Russian authorities are appealing to the United Nations and Council of Europe to intervene, according to Russian news agencies. Authorities have spent unprecedented funds to get out the vote to ensure he has a strong mandate for his next six years in office.

Some 145,000 observers were monitoring the voting in the world's largest country, including 1,500 foreigners and representatives from Navalny's movement. Putin faces seven challengers but none poses a serious threat.

In polling station 1515 in Zelenodolsk, 800 kilometres east of Moscow, many people photographed themselves voting.

Vladimir Putin is certain to win a fourth term in Sunday's election, so voter apathy is widespread. By early evening Sunday, Golos had counted 2,000 incidents, including observers being prevented from carrying out monitoring. The problems included multiple ballot boxes placed out of sight of observation cameras, and last-minute voter registration changes likely created to boost turnout.

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