Putin vows Russia cannot be held back in victory speech

Vladimir Putin said Russia would not be "intimidated" as he hailed an election victory that paves the way for the former spy to become the longest-serving Russian leader in more than 200 years.

All of the 71-year-old's major opponents are dead, in prison or exiled, and he has overseen an unrelenting crackdown on anybody who publicly opposes his rule or his military offensive in Ukraine.

"I want to thank all of you and all citizens of the country for your support and this trust," Putin said early Monday morning in a news conference at his campaign headquarters in Moscow hours after polls closed.

"No matter who or how much they want to intimidate us, no matter who or how much they want to suppress us, our will, our consciousness — no one has ever succeeded in anything like this in history. It has not worked now and will not work in the future. Never," he added.

With 99 percent of voting stations having submitted results, Putin had secured 87.33 percent of all votes cast, official election data showed, according to state news agency RIA.

It is a record victory in a presidential election where he faced no genuine competition.

The three-day election was marked by a surge in deadly Ukrainian bombardments, incursions into Russian territory by pro-Kiev sabotage groups and vandalism at polling stations.

The Kremlin had cast the election as a moment for Russians to throw their weight behind the full-scale military operation in Ukraine, where voting was also being staged in Russian-controlled territories.

 'Drunk from power' 

Putin singled out Russian troops fighting in Ukraine for special thanks in his post-election speech in Moscow.

And he was unrelenting in claiming his forces had a...

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