Merkel to congratulate Putin, discuss 'challenges' in ties: spokesman

Russian President Vladimir Putin struck a softer tone towards the West on Monday after winning his biggest ever election victory, saying he had no desire for an arms race and would do everything he could to resolve differences with other countries.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said his country's partnership with Russian Federation was at its "best level in history".

China was the first world power to react Putin's re-election, with Xinhua news agency quoting Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) as saying: "China is willing to work with Russia to keep promoting China-Russia relations to a higher level".

In the Khabarovsk region in southeastern Russian Federation, officials reportedly delivered supplies of eggs, tinned peas and frozen pike to several polling stations and offered discount prices on these products for people who cast their vote.

The nearest an opponent got was 11 percent of the votes in favor of Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin.

However, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was more critical, condemning the holding of the Russian election in Crimea and saying: "We assume that Russia will remain a hard partner".

Mr Putin got more than 76% of the vote, official results show.

Putin's most serious rival, opposition leader Alexei Navalny, was barred from the race because of a fraud conviction widely seen as politically motivated. Third was ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky with 5.7%.

The poisoning of an ex-spy in Britain along with fresh sanctions from Washington over allegations of meddling in the U.S. 2016 election have isolated Moscow to an extent not seen since the Cold War.

There were also reports of ballot boxes being stuffed with extra ballots in several regions.

The leaders of Kazakhstan, Belarus, Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba were among others who also sent their best wishes.

Putin has had an anti-western rhetoric during all these late years.

The independent election monitoring group Golos reported hundreds of irregularities.

Observers reported widespread ballot-stuffing and unprecedented pressure on Russians to vote, but that is unlikely to seriously damage Mr Putin given his popularity and his tight control over Russian politics. Western countries are likely to see more Russia-linked hacking and propaganda aimed at disrupting elections or otherwise discrediting democracy - including the USA midterm elections in November.

And 24 hours after Putin's victory, there has been no public comment from the White House. That policy culminated in Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine - actions that drew Western sanctions and sparked tensions unseen since Cold War times.

When his new term expires in 2024, Putin may find a malleable successor and create a new role for himself to keep running Russian Federation from behind the scenes.

How long Putin wants to stay in power remains uncertain. After his win he laughed off a question from a journalist about standing in 2030.

The massive victory gives Putin new confidence to stand up to the West.

Western diplomats also criticized Russian Federation for holding the vote on the Crimean peninsula, a bold decision by Putin, whose current term has been characterized by provocations against Western powers.

  • Leroy Wright