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Vladimir Putin retains grip on Russia, exit poll shows

Vladimir Putin retains grip on Russia, exit poll shows

Russian President Vladimir Putin won reelection Sunday, gaining a fourth term in office, early results suggest.

Reuters reporters witnessed multiple people in different locations voting in groups and then taking photos of themselves in front of the ballot boxes on their phones.

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 United States election.

With his approval rating topping 80 percent and rivals trailing far behind, Putin is set to easily win a fourth term.

A new face in politics, Grudinin has injected a dose of intrigue into the campaign but has faced a hail of allegations of financial wrongdoing from pro-Kremlin media, though electoral authorities ruled there was no grounds to bar his candidacy.

She has denied collusion with the Kremlin and said she was ready to co-operate with Mr Putin's main foe, opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was barred from the race because of a criminal conviction widely seen as politically motivated.

Putin has been president since 2000, stepping aside for one term as prime minister to get around term limits.

Nikolai Volkov, a 26-year-old business manager, said he had voted for Grudinin because he thought his transformation of the Lenin State Farm, which had its roots as a Soviet collective, into a successful agricultural and real estate business could be a model for all of Russian Federation.

Moscow has denounced both cases as efforts to interfere in the Russian election.

Putin loyalists said the result was a vindication of his tough stance towards the West.

Critics accuse him of overseeing a corrupt authoritarian system and of illegally annexing Ukraine's Crimea in 2014, a move that isolated Russian Federation internationally. But Putin's popularity remained strong, apparently buttressed by nationalist pride.

The 65-year-old former KGB officer used an otherwise lackluster presidential campaign to emphasize Russia's role as a major world power, boasting of its "invincible" new nuclear weapons in a pre-election speech. Just weeks before the election, he announced that Russian Federation has developed advanced nuclear weapons capable of evading missile defenses. The military campaign in Syria is clearly aimed at strengthening Russia's foothold in the Middle East and Russian Federation eagerly eyes possible reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula as a lucrative economic opportunity. But he has not groomed a successor, prompting speculation he may try to find ways to extend his power beyond this term.

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Close to 109 people were registered to cast ballots at 100,000 voting stations across the 85 regions and republics of the Russian Federation.

"The program that I propose for the country is the right one", he declared.

"Will I be doing this till I am a hundred years old?" he asked, before responding, "No".

Nevertheless, she said standing had been worth it. "People have heard the truth, which they have not heard for many years", she said.

The nationwide exit poll conducted by the All-Russia Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) showed that Putin won 73.9 percent of Sunday's presidential vote.

He has deployed more than 30 000 observers to monitor the polls and on Sunday, his team began publishing a rolling list of violations from polling stations around the country.

Near final figures put voter turnout at 67.47 percent, just shy of the 70 percent the presidential administration was reported to have been aiming for by Russian media before the vote.

(AAP) The Russian Central Election Commission is now contending with claims of vote stuffing.

He criticised the seven contenders challenging Mr Putin for failing to protest against ballot stuffing and other irregularities tainting the election, saying on his blog that "such candidates aren't worthy of your vote".

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. He urged a boycott of the election and vowed to continue defying the Kremlin with street protests.

The host of a show of Kremlin propaganda outlet RT said expat Russians had voted in record numbers "thanks, highly likely, to the mobilizing power of UK Skripal bellicosity".

"Who am I voting for?"