MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin basked in a landslide re-election victory on Monday, extending his rule over the world’s largest country for another six years at a time when his ties with the West are on a hostile trajectory.
Putin’s victory will take his political dominance of Russia to nearly a quarter of a century until 2024, the longest rule since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, by which time Putin will be 71. He has promised to use his new term to beef up Russia’s defenses against the West and to raise living standards.
In an outcome that was never in doubt, the Central Election Commission, with nearly 100 percent of the votes counted, announced that Putin, who has run Russia as either president or prime minister since 1999, had won 76.66 percent of the vote.
In a late night victory speech near Red Square, Putin told a cheering crowd he interpreted the win as a vote of confidence in what he had achieved in the last few years in tough conditions.
“It’s very important to maintain this unity,” said Putin, before leading the crowd in repeated chants of “Russia!” He told a meeting of supporters afterwards that difficult times were ahead, but that Russia had a chance to make “a breakthrough.”
Backed by state TV, the ruling party, and credited with an approval rating around 80 percent, he faced no credible threat from field of seven challengers.