Putin, Medvedev say win for Kremlin's candidate means continuity in Russia
Vladimir Putin congratulated his hand-picked successor on his apparent
presidential election victory Sunday and said the win would guarantee
the continuity of the course Putin set for Russia.
Dmitry Medvedev, who had about 65 percent of the vote in early results,
appeared alongside his mentor in Red Square and vowed to pursue Putin's
"Such a victory carries a lot of obligations," Putin said from the
open-air concert stage outside the Kremlin. "This victory will serve as
a guarantee that the course we have chosen, the successful course we
have been following over the past eight years, will be continued."
Medvedev is expected to formally take over as president in May, and
Putin has agreed to be his prime minister, the second highest post in
"We will be able to preserve the course of President Putin," Medvedev said.
The Central Election Commission said that returns from 15 percent of
Russia's electoral districts showed Medvedev with about 65 percent.
Some voters complained of pressure to cast ballots for Medvedev, and
critics called the election a cynical stage show to ensure unbroken
rule by Putin and his allies.
Sunday's vote came after a tightly controlled campaign and months of
political maneuvering by Putin, who appeared determined to keep a
strong hand on Russia's reins while maintaining while maintaining the
basic trappings of electoral democracy and leaving the constitution
Some in the West have welcomed Medvedev's reputation as a moderate
after years of tense ties with Putin over his crackdown on domestic
dissent, U.S. plans for a missile defense and Kosovo's independence,
among other things.
Few international observers monitored the election, in which accounts
of pressure will reinforce Western concerns of backtracking on
democracy under Putin.
"The result doesn't matter as this is an illegitimate transfer of
power," said former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, a Putin foe who
was barred from the ballot.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said; "These are free and democratic elections after a free and democratic campaign."
Some 450,000 police and troops deployed nationwide to ensure the voting
proceeded calmly, although two bomb explosions targeted a police convoy
near Chechnya, wounding several people.
Though he has never held elected office, Medvedev has had an easy ride
toward the presidency. Polls predicted he would take a solid majority
of votes against the three other candidates: Communist Gennady
Zyuganov, flamboyant ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky and the
little-known Andrei Bogdanov of the Democratic Party.
Zyuganov has nearly 20 percent, early results showed.
Liberal opposition leaders Kasyanov and Garry Kasparov, the former
world chess champion and one of the Kremlin's most prominent critics,
were both squeezed off the ballot on technicalities.
The ITAR-Tass and Interfax news agencies quoted Zyuganov saying he has
a list of 200 alleged vote violations and Zhirinovsky as saying he will
challenge official vote results in court.
Escorted by a dozen riot police as he spoke to journalists near Red
Square, Kasparov carried a plastic shopping bag that read, "I am not
participating in this farce."
Zyuganov claimed widespread irregularities but provided no evidence.
Only 300 international election observers were monitoring the 96,000
voting stations across Russia's 11 time zones. The influential
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe refused to send
observers, saying Russia imposed such tight restrictions that its
mission would be meaningless.