Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday claimed victory in the country’s presidential elections to secure another six-year term in office.

Putin had received 87.32% of the votes on Monday, as of 7 am Moscow time, Russian government-owned news agency TASS reported citing the country’s election commission. Nearly 99.5% of the ballots had been counted by that time.

Nikolay Kharitonov, the candidate from the Communist Party, was trailing with 4.32% of the votes, TASS reported. While Vladislav Davankov of the New People party had won 3.79% of the votes, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia’s Leonid Slutsky had 3.19%.

Putin, a former secret service officer, served as the president of Russia between 2000 and 2008 and has been occupying the position since 2012. He was the country’s prime minister between 1999 and 2000 and between 2008 and 2012. His second term as the prime minister was to circumvent a constitutional ban on holding the head of state’s position for more than two consecutive terms.

The election held on Sunday has been widely seen as a rigged exercise.

Thousands participated in a peaceful protest against the re-election of Putin. In a campaign called “noon against Putin”, Russian voters opposing Putin went to polling stations midday to either spoil their ballot paper or vote for one of the Opposition candidates, Reuters reported.

Governments, especially in the West, have criticised the election process, saying that it was not free and fair.

John Kirby, the United States national security council spokesperson, said: “The elections are obviously not free nor fair given how Mr Putin has imprisoned political opponents and prevented others from running against him.”

The German foreign ministry also said that the “pseudo-election in Russia is neither free nor fair, the result will surprise nobody”.

“Putin’s rule is authoritarian, he relies on censorship, repression and violence,” the ministry said in a social media post on Sunday. “The ‘election’ in the occupied territories of Ukraine are null and void & another breach of international law.”

Russia had invaded Ukraine in February 2022, triggering the ongoing war between them.

In a press conference after the election, Putin sought to project the result as a vindication of his decision to invade Ukraine.

The voter turnout was 74.22%, Al Jazeera quoted election officials as claiming. In 2018, the turnout was 67.5%.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dismissed the election and said that Putin should be on trial in the international criminal court for his country’s war on Ukraine.

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