Russia election: Muted Western reaction to Putin victory

Russia election: Muted Western reaction to Putin victory

World leaders are congratulating Vladimir Putin on his election for a new six-year term as Russian president, but so far no Western leaders have responded to his victory.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said his country’s partnership with Russia was at its “best level in history”.

Mr Putin got more than 76% of the vote, official results show.

He said he was considering changes to his government, including the post of prime minister.

Former President Dmitry Medvedev has held the post since he changed places in 2012 with Mr Putin, who has ruled the country as either president or prime minister since 1999.

The main opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, was barred from the race.

What has been the reaction around the world?

In a congratulatory message to Mr Putin, China’s Mr Xi said: “Currently, the China-Russia comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership is at the best level in history, which sets an example for building a new type of international relations.”

The leaders of Kazakhstan, Belarus, Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba were among others who also sent their best wishes.

But no Western leaders have so far made any comment. Tensions between Russia and the West have deepened in recent weeks after the poisoning of an ex-spy in Britain, which the UK government blamed on Russia.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, arriving for a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, questioned the fairness of the election and said Russia would remain a difficult partner, but added: “We want to remain in dialogue.”

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, meanwhile, focused on the poisoning, which she condemned as “absolutely unacceptable”.

hich she condemned as “absolutely unacceptable”.

The UK expelled 23 Russian diplomats from London, prompting a tit-for-tat response from Moscow. The US, which has backed the UK’s condemnation of Russia, recently imposed sanctions on a group of Russians over alleged interference in the 2016 election.

What happened in the election?

The scale of victory – which had been widely predicted – appears to be a marked increase in Mr Putin’s share of the vote from 2012, when he won 64%. Turnout, at more than 67%, also appears to be up.

Addressing a rally in Moscow, Mr Putin said voters had “recognised the achievements of the last few years”.

His nearest competitor, millionaire communist Pavel Grudinin, received slightly less than 12%.

The race also included Ksenia Sobchak, a former reality TV host, and veteran nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky – they got less than 2% and less than 6% respectively.

In some areas, free food and discounts in local shops were on offer near polling stations.

What criticisms have there been?

Video recordings from polling stations showed irregularities in a number of towns and cities across Russia. Several showed election officials stuffing boxes with ballot papers.

Mr Navalny was excluded from the election because of an embezzlement conviction that he said was manufactured by the Kremlin.

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