Russian Exile: Criminal Gangs May 'Manipulate' Putin

Russian Exile: Criminal Gangs May 'Manipulate' Putin

Kerry Wise
March 20, 2018

Russians voted today in an election set to hand President Vladimir Putin a fourth Kremlin term, as the country is embroiled in a crisis with Britain and its allies over a spy poisoning.

In Saint Petersburg, the former imperial capital, Antonina Kurchatova also said she voted for Putin but was just hoping things in Russian Federation would not get worse.

Mr Putin's campaign had hoped for a large turnout, to give him the strongest possible mandate.

According to BBC, the main opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, was barred from the race.

However, Mr Putin's victory came after Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Russian Federation had been perfecting and building up stocks of Novichok, the nerve agent used in the attempted murder of double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, for a decade.

Putin, a former Soviet intelligence officer, is already Russia's longest-serving leader since Josef Stalin.

But they crossed swords repeatedly ahead of the March 18 election that handed Putin a fourth presidential term, with Navalny urging Russians to stay away from the voting and Sobchak becoming one of seven candidates rounding out the ballot.

Selfie competitions, giveaways, food festivals and children's entertainers were laid on at polling booths in a bid to create a festive atmosphere around the election.

Russian media has reported that officials and workers at factories are being pressured to vote.

The exit poll showed Communist candidate Pavel Grudinin in second place with 11.2 percent of the vote, while ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky came in third with 6.7 percent.

The Central Election Commission also claimed it had been the target of a hacking attempt from 15 unidentified nations that was deterred by authorities.

For the liberal opposition, the vote was a test of whether celebrity candidate Ksenia Sobchak had enough support to head a new party, while for the Communists, the question was whether a fresh face could revive the party's fortunes.

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The Russian leader's popularity remains high despite his suppression of dissent and reproach from the West over Russia's increasingly aggressive stance in world affairs and alleged interference in the 2016 USA election.

His lawyer Ivan Zhdanov said the actual national turnout at 1700 GMT, when polls closed in Moscow, was 55 percent, according to data collected by monitors.

In Moscow, first-time voters were given free tickets for pop concerts and health authorities were offering free cancer screenings at some polling stations.

Based on the results of processing 99.51% of the ballots of the CEC, Vladimir Putin wins a presidential election in Russian Federation with a result of 76.65% of the votes.

For weeks in advance of the election, the government funded an intense messaging campaign meant to get Russians to the ballot box. Many took photographs of themselves voting, saying they were needed as proof.

(AAP) Voting in the Russian election continues with Mr Putin the likely victor of a fourth term. Ukraine security forces blocked the Russian Embassy in Kiev and consulates elsewhere as the government protested the voting in Crimea, whose annexation is still not internationally recognized.

At a polling station in Vladivostok, a 35-year-old man said he wanted Putin to lead the country for another term because he felt his town had developed from a decade ago.

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

Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region, alleged Kremlin meddling in the United States presidential election, and Moscow's bombing campaign in Syria, have been condemned in the West.

The election comes as tensions with the west continue to rise over the poisoning of a former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in the UK. British Prime Minister Theresa May said it was "highly likely" the Kremlin was behind the attack, and both countries have expelled diplomats in an ongoing tit for tat.

Kremlin insiders say Putin has selected no heir apparent, and that any names being circulated are the product of speculation and not based on insider knowledge of Putin's thinking.

Putin's previous Kremlin term was marked by a crackdown on the opposition after huge protests, Ukraine conflict, military intervention in Syria and the introduction of Western sanctions that contributed to a fall in living standards. Before stepping down to let Putin reclaim the top job in 2012, Medvedev initiated constitutional changes that extended the presidential term to six years.