Vladimir Putin has been re-elected in Russia for another six years after winning Sunday’s presidential election with a projected 76.6% of the vote, a state-run exit poll shows.
Putin was widely expected to win his fourth term as President, with no meaningful opposition in the running and his fiercest opponent, Alexei Navalny, barred from the race.
Putin, a former KGB spy, has dominated Russian politics for 18 years and the 65-year-old was already the country’s longest-serving leader since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
Exit polls are not final, and official results are gradually being released.
Putin declared victory in front of thousands of people gathered in below-freezing temperatures at Moscow’s Manezhnaya Square near the Kremlin, where he called for unity in the country.
“We are a great big team together and I am a member of your team,” he said, after a colorful show of high-energy musical performances.
Putin addresses the crowd during Sunday night’s rally and concert in Moscow.
An official win of more than 73% of the vote would be a major boost to Putin, who already enjoys sweeping powers over his country. He won 63.6% of the ballots in the 2012 election, but the number of people who turned out this time was not immediately clear.
His election win will take his rule to 2024, when he will be 71 and obliged by law to step down. But the President hasn’t groomed a successor, prompting speculation he may try to find ways to extend his power beyond this term.