Vladimir Putin scored a decisive win in Russia's presidential election on Sunday, securing a new six-year term in the Kremlin, even as his opponents refused to recognise the results, complaining of widespread fraud.
Tears rolling down his cheeks, Putin called his victory a turning point that had prevented the country falling into the hands of enemies while his opponents said they would press ahead on Monday with the biggest protests since he rose to power 12 years ago.
The win that is set to grant the 59-year-old former KGB spy a third presidential term after spending the last four years as the country´s Prime Minister, as election officials said, with nearly all the ballots counted, he secured around 64 percent of the vote.
Tens of thousands of flag-waving supporters took part in a concert outside the Kremlin to celebrate the victory as Putin, dressed in an anorak and flanked by outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev, thanked his well-wishers from "every corner" of the country.
"I promised you we would win, and we won," he said, his eyes watering. "Glory to Russia! We have won in an open and honest battle. We proved that no one can force anything on us," he said under the red walls of the Kremlin.
Some independent observers however gave accounts of extensive vote-rigging, bolstering the resolve of opposition forces whose unprecedented protests in recent months have posed the first serious challenge to Putin´s heavy-handed rule, media reports said.
The independent election watchdog Golos said Putin won just over 50 percent, adding that it had received numerous reports of "carousel" voting that added to at least 3,500 reports of violations nationwide.
Chess champion-turned-opposition activist Garry Kasparov accused Putin´s supporters of "massive fraud" in December´s parliamentary elections even though Putin´s campaign chief, Stanislav Govorukhin, rejected the claims of violations, calling them "ridiculous."