Elections watchdog agency receives over 3,000 complaints of violations

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has won Russia's presidential election on Sunday.

Mr. Putin has got 62 per cent of the 85 per cent votes counted, the Central Election Commission said. Exit polls conducted by two leading pollsters gave Mr. Putin 58-59 per cent. Mr. Putin needed to win more than 50 per cent to avoid a runoff.

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov came second with over 17 per cent of the votes. The other three candidates polled less than 10 per cent each.

The election was marred by reports of large-scale violations. Opposition activists and observers have reported thousands of violations that involved multiple voting, known here as “carousels” — voting without proper documents and non-admission of monitors to polling stations.

The elections watchdog agency Golos said it received more than 3,000 complaints of violations. Website Rosvobory reported 2,700 violations by noon. The CEC said it received reports of a mere 86 violations.

Golos said the number of violations was as high as during the December parliamentary election, when allegations of large-scale fraud in favour of Mr. Putin's party, United Russia, set off mass protests across Russia. In response to complaints of ballot stuffing, authorities installed web cameras at almost all of Russia's 95,000 polling stations. The charges of vote rigging have spurred tens of thousands of volunteers to act as election observers during the presidential poll.

Faced with stricter voting monitoring, authorities resorted to new falsification techniques, said Alexei Navalny, a leader of the new protest movement and Russia's most famous corruption buster.

“There has been a surge in ‘carousel' voting,” Mr. Navalny said. “Thousands of people were bussed to Moscow from other cities, and each of them voted up to 20 times at different polling stations.”

For Mr. Putin, 59, it will be his third term as President. He stepped down four years ago because of a Constitutional limit, promoting his protégé Dmitry Medvedev to succeed him.

Mr. Putin has promised to appoint Mr. Medvedev as Prime Minister after the election.

In a bizarre incident, three activists from Ukraine's women's movement Femen, who last month attacked the Indian embassy in Kyiv, appeared topless at the polling station where Mr. Putin had cast his vote a few minutes earlier. They shouted insults at Mr. Putin and attempted to seize a ballot box before the police dragged them away.

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