Henry Meyer and Ilya Arkhipov
March 4, 2012
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin claimed victory in a presidential election that his opponents say was marred by fraud, accusing protesters against his rule of seeking to usurp power.
“We won in an open and honest fight,” Putin said in front of thousands of supporters near the Kremlin last night as tears streamed down his face. “We showed that our people can easily distinguish between a desire for novelty and renewal from political provocations which have only one goal: to destroy Russian statehood and usurp power.”
Putin, 59, who has been at Russia’s helm for 12 years including the last four as premier, won another six years in the Kremlin with about 64 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results with more than 55 percent of all ballots counted. Exit polls estimated his score at about 60 percent. Opposition groups plan a rally in Moscow today.
The Russian leader is seeking to reassert his authority in the face of renewed protests over electoral fraud allegations similar to those that sparked the largest unrest in his decade in power. Outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev, who agreed to step aside in September to make way for Putin’s return, appeared alongside his predecessor at the rally. Putin backed the presidential candidacy of Medvedev, 46, four years ago, when the constitution prevented him from running for a third consecutive term.
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