Putin declares victory in presidential elections

Moscow: Vladimir Putin has triumphed in Russia`s presidential election, returning for a third term after spending the last four years as the country`s Prime Minister amid allegations of vote rigging and fraud.

With more than 90 per cent of precincts counted nationwide, Putin was leading with 65 per cent, the Central Election Commission said.

Declaring his victory, Putin, 59, on Sunday told tens of thousands of supporters gathered with Russian flags and banners outside the Kremlin that they had won in an open and honest battle.

Making a brief appearance with current President Dmitry Medvedev, Putin thanked his supporters from "every corner" of the country.

"I promised you we would win, and we won," he said, with tears rolling down his cheeks. "Glory to Russia!"

"We have won in an open and honest battle.We proved that no-one can force anything on us."

Slogans on the banner included "Putin – our president" and "We believe in Putin".

He said the vote showed the majority of Russians has rejected "political provocations" by his opponents aimed at "destroying Russia`s statehood and usurping power."

Putin`s opponents complained of widespread fraud, refused to recognise the results and called for mass protests in central Moscow today.

The Russian Interior Ministry acknowledged reports of violations but said they had not been sufficient to impact the result of the vote.

Putin`s main rival Gennady Zyuganov, who received 17.17 per cent of the vote, said, "I cannot recognise these elections as fair, honest and worthy,".

"I see no reason to congratulate anyone." Complete results are expected today.

The ex-KGB spy will now become president for a third time after swapping role as prime minister with his close aide Dmitry Medvedev.

Putin was Russia`s president from 2000 to 2008, but was barred by the constitution from standing for a third consecutive term. He faces four challengers, three of whom he has defeated in previous elections.