Salisbury spy scandal will not affect Russian presidential election

Russia and UK are engaged in a row over the poisoning of an ex Russian double agent in England

Russian authorities had sought to ensure a large turnout to bolster the image that Putin's so-called "managed democracy" is robust and offers Russians true choices.

The final election results Monday showed that Putin won 76.6% of the vote, his highest score ever.

Vladimir Putin rolled to a crushing re-election victory Sunday for six more years as Russia's president, and he told cheering supporters in a triumphant but brief speech that "we are bound for success".

He said the nation needs unity to move forward and urged the crowd to "think about the future of our great motherland".

Another six years in power will allow Putin to rival Josef Stalin as the country's longest-serving leader.

Russia's Central Election Commission recognised that there were some irregularities, but was likely to dismiss wider criticism and declare the overall result legitimate. He also said if the British claim that they were poisoned by a Soviet-designed nerve agent were true, the victims would have died instantly.

The attack in Salisbury, which has also left a police officer in serious condition, was highlighted by the US Treasury as one of the justifications for its stronger stance against Moscow.

Other examples of Russian election irregularities cited by observers or posted on social media included ballot boxes being stuffed with extra ballots in multiple regions; an election official assaulting an observer; CCTV cameras obscured by flags or nets from watching ballot boxes; discrepancies in ballot numbers; last-minute voter registration changes likely created to boost turnout; and a huge pro-Putin sign in one polling station.

But Mr Putin's critics will dismiss the vote as an nearly meaningless exercise, given that the main opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, was not permitted to compete. Navalny was prevented from running because of a criminal conviction widely viewed as politically motivated.

A day of voting across Russia's 11 time zones began at 2000 GMT Saturday on Russia's eastern edge, in the Pacific coast city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.

Britain and Russia have been trading public insults over the use of a Soviet-era nerve agent called Novichok to strike down former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury. In addition, USA federal prosecutors are investigating whether Russian-linked groups interfered during the 2016 presidential election.

Britain and Russian Federation are also locked in a diplomatic dispute over the spy poisoning incident, and Washington is eyeing new sanctions on Moscow over allegations it interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, something Russian Federation denies.

"I voted for Putin", said Lyubov Kachan, a teacher in the settlement of Ust-Djeguta, in southern Russian Federation. "Across the country people are being driven to the polling stations".

Members of a local Cossack community dance outside a polling station during the presidential election in Rostov-on-Don.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson speaks to media during a visit to a Battle of Britain bunker in Uxbridge on 16 March 2018.

The eight presidential candidates were barred from campaigning Sunday, but much-loved entertainers appealed to voters in a televised message to fulfill their civic duty.

But memories of mass protests in Moscow when Putin switched back with Medvedev and returned to the Kremlin may put the Russian leader off this option.

Putin has traveled across Russian Federation pledging to raise wages, pour more funds into the country's crumbling health care and education and modernize dilapidated infrastructure.

This may explain why Putin did not show up at his nomination event or participate in the presidential debates, which some observers say were staged to make contest look more real and to encourage a higher voter turnout.

Yevgeny, a 43-year-old mechanic voting in central Moscow, said he briefly wondered whether it was worth voting.

Putin campaign spokesman Andrei Kondrashov credited the tension with the United Kingdom for boosting turnout for the president with its tough line. In Moscow, authorities spent $870,000 on balloons and decorations at polling stations.

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