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Cameron criticises Russia election after early results show Putin landslide

Lord David Cameron has denounced the election in Russia which saw Vladimir Putin tighten his grip on power following the stifling of any real opposition.

The Foreign Secretary said “this is not what free and fair elections look like” after early results on Sunday showed the Russian president won nearly 88% of the vote.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said Mr Putin has “stolen another election”.

The result, recorded by Russia’s Central Election Commission, would be a record for Mr Putin, extending his nearly quarter-of-a-century rule for another six-year term.

Mr Putin, who hailed his win as an indication of “trust” and “hope” in him on Sunday evening, faced competition from only three candidates who had not criticised his rule nor his invasion of Ukraine.

All serious challengers were wiped out before voting began.

Arch foe Alexei Navalny died in an Arctic prison last month, and other critics are either in jail or in exile.

Meanwhile, independent monitoring of the election was extremely limited, with the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) not invited to observe the three-day vote.

Lord Cameron tweeted: “The polls have closed in Russia, following the illegal holding of elections on Ukrainian territory, a lack of choice for voters and no independent OSCE monitoring.

“This is not what free and fair elections look like.”

Flowers for Alexei Navalny
Flowers were left outside the Russian embassy in London on the day of the funeral of Vladimir Putin’s opponent Alexei Navalny (Lucy North/PA)

Mr Shapps said: “Putin has stolen another election, but he will not steal Ukraine.

“The UK will work with our allies to stop this thief by increasing our collective support for Ukraine.

“As history shows, we have to stop dictators and autocrats, or they go on to steal even more.”

Earlier on Sunday, before the exit poll, Cabinet minister Mark Harper also said Russia’s elections were neither free nor fair.

He told Sky News’s Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips: “I don’t think people have any illusion about whether they’re free or fair, and it’s particularly reprehensible that they’re trying to conduct those elections in parts of Ukraine, which is the sovereign state which Vladimir Putin has invaded.”

Asked whether the UK would recognise Mr Putin’s regime, the Transport Secretary said: “We of course have diplomatic relations with Russia, but we make our position to them very clear about their invasion of Ukraine.”

Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, a former secretary-general of Nato, said the West should not be intimidated by Mr Putin.

“I think that Putin is likely to double down again, he’ll claim this as a boost for himself and an endorsement for the military action he has taken,” he told the BBC’s The Westminster Hour.

He said while western nations get “spooked” by Mr Putin’s threat of using nuclear weapons, “we should not be intimidated by nuclear blackmail” because “he knows that we have got means of retaliating”.

Russian nationals living in the UK took to polling stations on Sunday to spoil presidential election ballots in protest against Mr Putin.

The Russian Democratic Society – described as a community of Russian immigrants in the UK – organised a Noon Against Putin demonstration outside the Russian embassy in London.

It came as associates of Mr Navalny urged people across Russia to protest by crowding near polling stations at noon on Sunday.