Russia's Vladimir Putin wins by big margin

REUTERS  Gonzalo Fuentes

REUTERS Gonzalo Fuentes

President Vladimir Putin received 75 percent of votes cast so far in Sunday's election, easily winning another six-year term as Russia's leader.

The Kremlin needs high voter numbers to give greater legitimacy to a new mandate for Putin as Russian Federation faces increasing isolation over a spy poisoning in Britain and a fresh round of United States sanctions.

In Khabarovsk in Russia's Far East, the regional government organized a food festival to coincide with the vote that, at one polling place, was to include a "presidential breakfast" featuring skim-milk oatmeal with regional pine nuts.

Russians queue to cast their votes at the Russian Embassy in Berlin, Germany.

"After he brought Crimea back, he became a hero to me".

According to the CEC, Putin is followed by CPRF candidate Pavel Grudinin, who is scoring 14.94% of votes.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine four years ago, earning Putin admiration from many Russians and condemnation from the West.

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

Mr Navalny himself is barred from running.

The statement said only diplomats would have access to Russian diplomatic institutions on Ukrainian territory during the vote "in order to avoid provocations and possible grave consequences". "What for?" Boris Limarev, a 39-year-old manager, said as he walked his dog near a polling station in Saint Petersburg. He won 63.6% of the ballots in the 2012 election, but the number of people who turned out this time was not immediately clear.

"And the rest of the candidates are clowns", interjected his wife Anna, 35.

Victory in the election will see Putin serve another six years in office.

News Europe Editor Emma Murphy said Putin's team pointedly claimed the Skripal ex-spy poisoning crisis had boosted his victory.

Putin's next term, which is expected to begin in May, will begin with continued allegations that Russian Federation tried to influence the 2016 election.

Since first being elected president in 2000, Putin has stamped his total authority on Russian Federation muzzling opposition, putting television under state control and reasserting Moscow's posture overseas.

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Election authorities reported that voters appeared to be turning out in larger numbers than in 2012 when Putin, a former KGB agent, faced a serious opposition movement and there were allegations of ballot stuffing, voters casting multiple ballots and coercion.

"The chief of my unit called me and said I was the only one who hadn't voted", said the doctor, Yekaterina, who spoke on condition her last name not be used because she also feared repercussions.

"Thank you very much". He's doing everything right.

About 107 million Russians are eligible to cast ballots and turnout was almost 60 percent an hour before polls closed in Moscow at 1700 GMT, according to figures displayed in the central electoral commission information centre.

The claims received global backlash as Putin seeks to embolden in position both in Russian Federation and around the globe.

Overall turnout is expected to be between 63 and 67 per cent, according to state-controlled pollsters.

- Also at polling station 216 in Ust-Djeguta, a woman around 40 said she was asked to provide proof of herself voting by her boss in the town's kindergarten number 6. Observers and individual voters reported widespread violations including ballot-box stuffing and forced voting, but the claims are unlikely to dilute the power of Russia's longest-serving leader since Josef Stalin.

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Kabaeva - not linked to any other suitors for a decade despite being seen as one of Russia's most eligible women - is also coy over her love life.

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