Vladimir Putin claimed victory in Russia’s presidential election. With exit polls showing the prime minister winning 59 per cent or the vote – or more, the prime minister addressed crowds outside the Kremlin walls and declared: “I promised you we would win and we have won. Glory to Russia.”

Opposition candidates, including the veteran Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, demanded the investigation of alleged frauds in Sunday’s vote. Following the recent anti-government protests, much will depend on whether Putin’s victory is seen as legitimate. Protest leaders, who have organised unprecedented demonstrations in favour of transparent elections for three months, have pledged to stage a rally on Monday.

Speaking with president Dmitry Medvedev beside him, an emotional Putin said: “We have won an open and honest election.”

In a barely-disguised assault on western efforts to promote democracy in the former Soviet bloc, Putin warned about efforts to stage “a political provocation that has only one goal – to usurp power.”

Early voting results put Putin even further ahead of his rivals than the exit polls, leaving litle doubt that he would win the election in the first round by securing more than 50 per cent of the vote.

According to the Central Election Commission, with 37.5 per cent of the ballots counted Putin had 63.77 per cent, Zyuganov 17.25 per cent, billionaire businessman Mikhail Prokhorov 7.5 per cent, nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky 6.99 per cent, and kremlin-backed social democrat Sergei Mironov 3.73 per cent.

Prokhorov seemed to set to win around double the vote that was predicted. Zyuganov and Zhirinovsky both lost considerable ground to Putin.

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