Sunday, March 04, 2012

A tearful Putin is president of Russia once more...

Image via Wikipedia
Opposition leaders denounce 'illegitimate, untransparent' polls in which former PM won more than half of votes. Whatever their opinions may be, whatever the claims are: Vladimir Putin is president of Russia once more...
MOSCOW - Mr Vladimir Putin triumphed in Russia's presidential election and, tears rolling down his cheeks, called his victory a turning point that had prevented the country falling into the hands of enemies.

Mr Putin's opponents complained of widespread fraud, refused to recognise the results and said they would press ahead today with the biggest protests since he rose to power 12 years ago.

But former KGB spy Putin said yesterday he had won a "clean" victory and was on course to return to the Kremlin after four years as Prime Minister with almost 65 per cent of votes, partial results showed.

"I promised you we would win. We have won. Glory to Russia," Mr Putin, dressed in an anorak and flanked by outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev, told tens of thousands of flag-waving supporters at a late-evening victory rally under the red walls of the Kremlin.

Denouncing attempts to "destroy Russia's statehood and usurp power," he said: "The Russian people have shown today that such scenarios will not succeed in our land ... They shall not pass!"

The crowd at one point chanted: "Putin! Putin! Putin!" Some danced to keep warm and drank vodka from plastic glasses, with empty bottles crunching underfoot.

A spokesman later said Mr Putin had wept real tears at the victory rally but said they were caused by the biting wind.

It was a defiant and angry speech which left Mr Putin, 59, on collision course with the mainly middle-class protesters in Moscow and other big cities who have staged huge rallies since a disputed parliamentary poll on Dec 4.

Two exit polls showed Mr Putin with 58 to 59 per cent of the votes and incomplete results showed him winning more than 64 per cent.

His nearest rival, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, had about 17 per cent of votes, and nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, former parliamentary speaker Sergei Mironov and billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov were all below 10 per cent.

Mr Zyuganov said his party would not recognise the result and called the election "illegitimate, dishonest and untransparent". Liberal leader Vladimir Ryzhkov also said it was not legitimate.

The protest organisers, who see Mr Putin as an autocratic leader whose return to power will stymie hope of economic and political reforms, said their demonstrations would now grow.

Said journalist Sergei Parkhomenko, one of the leaders of the opposition protest movement: "He is forcing things to breaking point. He is declaring war on us. As a result the base of aversion to him is growing."

Despite the opposition, mainly among well-educated and relatively well-off young professionals, Mr Putin's support remains strong in the provinces and his victory had not been in doubt.

He showed his gratitude in late-night video links with supporters around Russia, including workers at a tank factory in the Urals town of Nizhny Tagil who have denounced the protests.

"You put in their places those people who went one step too far and insulted the working man," Mr Putin told them. "You showed who the Russian people are, the Russian working man, the worker and the engineer. You showed that you are a head higher than any layabout, any old windbag. This was for me the biggest present."

Mr Putin's clear victory - he avoided a runoff election by receiving more than 50 per cent of the vote - will enable him to portray his return to the post he held from 2000 until 2008 as strong public backing against the protesters, whom he has portrayed as a destabilising minority and pawns of foreign governments.

He will be inaugurated in May. REUTERS
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