Russia's election commission on Monday hailed what it said were "record" results for President Vladimir Putin, guaranteeing the former spy a fifth term in office after a vote that featured no credible opposition.

The Kremlin has presented the weekend election -- marred by ballot spoilers and Ukrainian bombardments of border regions -- as proof Russians were behind Putin's assault on Ukraine.

Putin's victory, which was inevitable, paves the way for him to become the longest-serving Russian leader in more than two centuries.

All of the 71-year-old's major opponents are dead, in prison or in exile and voting took place a month after Putin's main challenger Alexei Navalny died in an Arctic prison.

"Almost 76 million people" voted for Putin, Kremlin-friendly election chief Ella Pamfilova said. "This is a record figure."


Putin has steered Russia into isolation from the West by launching the 2022 Ukraine campaign.

"In the face of the West, we are united," Pamfilova said.

In a victory speech late on Sunday, Putin vowed Moscow would resist outside pressure.

"No matter who or how much they want to intimidate, no matter who or how much they want to suppress, our will, our consciousness -- no one has ever succeeded in anything like this in history," he said.

"It has not worked now and will not work in the future. Never."

- Ballot spoilers to be 'dealt with' -

In power since the last day of 1999, Putin has cultivated a strong man image, telling Russians he is fighting to preserve Moscow's national identity he claims is under threat.

Kremlin Updates Vladimir Putin’s Official Hagiography
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Kremlin Updates Vladimir Putin’s Official Hagiography

The Kremlin’s press secretary announced on TASS that the website ‘biography’ for Russia’s head of state has been brought up to date from the previous version’s 2018 cut-off.

His offensive in Ukraine has been accompanied by a huge crackdown at home, with the number of political prisoners in Russia rising fast.

Thousands responded to the opposition's call to protest the election by forming long queues at polling stations -- both inside and outside Russia.

Ballots were also spoiled by green dye and there were several incidents of voting booths being set on fire.

Putin vowed that Russians who spoiled their ballots "have to be dealt with" and dismissed opposition protests as having "no effect."


He said the vote showed Russians had "trust" in him.

The three-day vote -- also held in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine -- and saw a surge of deadly Ukrainian bombardments on Russian border regions.

Authorities said Ukrainian attacks killed 11 people were killed in Russia's Belgorod region in the last week.

- China, N.Korea congratulate Putin -

Whereas the previous four presidential elections Putin won since 2000 saw Western leaders pour in their congratulations, his victory this time was met with scathing statements.

"This is not what free and fair elections look like," UK Foreign Minister David Cameron said.

In Ukraine, battling Russian forces, President Volodymyr Zelensky lashed out at Putin as a "dictator" who was "drunk from power."

But others sent their congratulations including China, North Korea, Venezuela and Myanmar.

Russia has said it is seeking new allies after ties with the West have been severed over Ukraine.

Putin reaffirmed late on Sunday that Moscow intends to strengthen ties with its Chinese neighbour in particular.

"Our relations are stable, they complement each other," he said. "The most important thing is that state interests coincide."


- Putin utters Navalny's name -

In Berlin, which has a large Russian emigre community, Yulia Navalnaya had queued outside Moscow's embassy at noon, saying she wrote her late husband's name on the ballot.

"Obviously, I wrote Navalny's name," the 47-year-old, who has vowed to continue her husband's work, said to supportive crowds.

Putin has throughout his rule not tolerated real opposition and for around a decade refused to publicly pronounce in public the name of his main rival: Alexei Navalny.

He broke that tradition Sunday, uttering his name as he acknowledged his challenger's death for the first time.

"As for Mr. Navalny. Yes, he passed away. This is always a sad event," he said late on Sunday.

The Russian leader confirmed what Navalny's allies have said: that he had agreed to free Navalny in a prisoner swap with the West days before his death.

Putin said a colleague had proposed swapping Navalny several days before he died for "some people" currently held in prisons in Western countries.

"The person who was talking to me hadn't finished his sentence and I said 'I agree'".

Navalny's allies have alledged Putin ordered his killing on the eve of the swap.

Navalny is the latest Putin opponent to die in mysterious circumstances that have not been fully clarified by the Kremlin.

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