Early Official Results: Vladimir Putin Wins Russian Presidential Election With 88% Vote

Thousands of opponents staged a symbolic noon protest at polling stations.

Early Official Results: Vladimir Putin Wins Russian Presidential Election With 88% Vote

President Vladimir Putin won a record 88% of the vote in Russia's presidential election on Sunday, according to exit polls and early results, strengthening his hold on power despite hundreds of opponents staging a symbolic lunchtime protest at voting booths. 

The early results show that Putin, who took office in 1999, appears to have comfortably won a second six-year term, allowing him to surpass Josef Stalin and become Russia's longest-serving leader in more than 200 years.

According to an exit poll conducted by pollster FOM, Putin received 87.8% of the vote, the highest percentage ever recorded in Russia's post-Soviet history. According to the Russian Public Opinion Research Centre (VCIOM), Putin has an 87% rating. The first official results confirmed the surveys' accuracy. 

The election comes just over two years after Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, resulting in the bloodiest European conflict since World War II. He describes it as a "special military operation."

War has loomed over the three-day election: Ukraine has regularly assaulted Russian oil refineries, bombarded Russian territories, and attempted to penetrate Russian borders with proxy forces, which Putin has warned would not go unpunished. 

While Putin's re-election is certain given his authority over Russia and the lack of any credible competitors, the former KGB agent wants to demonstrate that he has the overwhelming support of Russians. Several hours before the polls closed at 1800 GMT, the countrywide turnout topped the 67.5% recorded in 2018.

Supporters of Putin's most renowned opponent, Alexei Navalny, who died in an Arctic jail last month, had urged Russians to attend a "Noon against Putin" rally to express their opposition to a man they saw as a corrupt despot. 

There was no independent count of how many of Russia's 114 million voters participated in the opposition marches, which were held under extraordinarily tight security with tens of thousands of police and security officers. 

At midday, Reuters journalists saw a surge in the flow of voters, particularly younger ones, at voting locations in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Yekaterinburg, with waits of several hundred to thousands.

Many said they were demonstrating, but there was little obvious evidence that distinguished them from ordinary voters. 

As noon approached in Asia and Europe, hundreds of people gathered at polling stations in Russian diplomatic missions. Navalny's widow, Yulia, arrived at the Russian embassy in Berlin amid cheers and cries of "Yulia, Yulia." 

Exiled Navalny followers utilized YouTube to transmit videos of demonstrations in Russia and around the world.