As it happened: Russia votes in presidential election

Key points

  • Vladimir Putin has been elected president of Russia for a third term, according to preliminary official results and exit polls.
  • Mr Putin says he has won an "open and honest fight" as thousands of unofficial allegations of fraud stream in.
  • Communist candidate Gennady Zyuganov says he cannot describe the election as honest.
  • Anti-fraud campaigner Alexei Navalny predicts "huge" opposition to Mr Putin and there are plans for protests on Monday.

    Welcome to our live coverage of the presidential election in Russia - one of the most scrutinised polls in decades as Vladimir Putin seeks to return to office. Follow us for updates on the progress of the vote across Russia's nine time zones, analysis from BBC correspondents and comment from readers.


    Mr Putin, in the Kremlin from 2000 to 2008, had to bow out for constitutional reasons, with his ally, Dmitry Medvedev, taking his place.


    Four men are challenging Mr Putin, including veteran politicians Gennady Zyuganov and Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who have both been contesting presidential elections since the Yeltsin years. Read our profiles of all five contenders.

    1234: Steve Rosenberg BBC News, Moscow

    Webcams have been installed at all 95,000 election precincts in response to the reports of vote-rigging in December but critics of the government doubt that this video eye will prevent cheating.


    A group of volunteer election observers - the self-styled League of Voters - say they have established 3,000 violations of electoral law so far. The most common alleged violation is the "carousel", where people supposedly voting away from home are bussed from one polling station to another.


    The BBC's Daniel Sandford has examined how the carousel and other alleged schemes for electoral fraud work. Read his report.


    Balaji in Moscow emails: The voting is going on in a quiet atmosphere and the turnout doesn't seem to be very high. No one really expects any major surprise in these elections, the question is only about how many votes the winner will get, will it be a landslide victory or not?


    Violations have also been reported by Golos, a long-established non-government organisation which monitors elections in Russia. Lilia Shibanova, its executive director, talked of reports of carousel voting (see 12:53 entry) in and around Moscow, and in the Siberian cities of Novosibirsk and Barnaul.


    Dmitry, Novosibirsk, Russia emails: There are two webcams at my polling station, one is monitoring polling boxes and the other members of the local electoral commission. So from my point of view these elections are fair as all actions of voters and officials are transparent.


    Here you can see Vladimir Putin turning out to cast his vote in Moscow, accompanied by his wife Lyudmila.

    Vladimir Putin turns out to cast his vote in Moscow, accompanied by his wife Lyudmila, 4 March

    If you read Russian, my colleague Pavel Fedenko at the BBC Russian service has been writing their election live page since early this morning, Moscow time.


    Russian police report no serious violations at today's election which, they say, is passing peacefully - Russian news agency Ria-Novosti. Police remain on duty in the far east where voting has ended and the count is getting under way.


    The BBC's Steve Rosenberg has just spoken to Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption blogger at the heart of the protests over the alleged fraud at the December polls.

    1335: Steve Rosenberg BBC News, Moscow

    Alexei Navalny tells me: "Grandiose scale of falsifications, especially in Moscow... mass use of carousel voting. Putin won't win. He will appoint himself president, an illegitimate president."


    Turnout has so far been higher than in 2008. According to official figures, nearly 48% of Russians had voted as of 11:00 GMT, compared to nearly 43% back then.


    He is not a candidate, not even a politician, but arguably he is the key figure in Russia's protest movement. Just who is Alexei Navalny? Read our profile.


    Here is a picture of Mr Navalny being interviewed at an office in Moscow today.

    Alexei Navalny in Moscow, 4 March

    Navalny is just one of the bloggers seeking to expose alleged fraud at the election but Kremlin supporters are fighting their corner on social media too. One of them is former Putin MP Konstantin Rykov (@rykov). Sample tweet: "Right then, agents provocateurs! Where's the promised video of the ballot-rigging?"


    For anybody wondering about exit polls in the far east, where voting has ended, there are strict reporting rules in Russia, as in other countries. Journalists are supposed to avoid mention of campaigning or opinion polls until all of the polling stations close, so as not to give one candidate any undue advantage over another.


    Alex in the Middle Volga Region of Russia writes: I think Mr Putin is going to win this election despite strong sentiments against him across Russia. On the international arena Putin may have been a very good player but when it comes to the well-being of his own subjects he has failed to deliver in many ways.

    1422: Steve Rosenberg BBC News, Moscow

    Alexei Navalny tells me: "A huge number of people will not recognise Putin as president and will continue to protest against him in different ways, including through street protests. Those will not stop. They will only increase."


    Electoral violations today compare to those seen at the 2008 election, the independent election monitoring group Golos tells Russia's Interfax news agency.

    1442: Bridget Kendall Diplomatic correspondent, BBC News

    The question remains: even if Mr Putin wins, will this election be considered fair? He has already dominated the election campaign and if there is new evidence of fraud, he could find himself a weakened president facing an angry movement of opposition activists who will not give up their campaign against him.


    Minutes after Mr Putin and his wife cast their votes in Moscow, there were bizarre scenes as bare-breasted Ukrainian feminists tried to stage a protest. They reportedly tried to seize the ballot box into which Mr Putin had dropped his vote before being detained by police. The Femen group has made a name for itself with topless stunts such as one we reported in Belarus in December.

    Officials grapple with bare-breasted Ukrainian female protesters at the Moscow polling station where Vladimir Putin voted, 4 March
    1458: Steve Rosenberg BBC News, Moscow

    On Moscow's Lubyanka Square, outside the headquarters of the FSB - Russia's internal security service - pro-Putin youth activists are playing table football in the snow!


    If you have just joined us, welcome to our live coverage of the presidential election in Russia. Stay with us for updates on the vote, expert analysis from our correspondents and reader comments. If you read Russian, you can follow the race on the BBC Russian service's own live page.


    Security forces are on alert for the election period. Here policemen troop across Moscow's Red Square in the snow, past a row of lorries.

    Police on Moscow's Red Square, 4 March

    Russian blogger Rustem Adagamov (@adagamov) reports an increased military presence in central Moscow. He has been tweeting photos of military vehicles in various locations around Moscow, BBC Monitoring reports.

    1530: Richard Galpin BBC News

    The head of the Siberian branch of the independent election monitoring organisation Golos, has told the BBC they have received a large number of calls reporting suspicious activity in the region during voting on Sunday. Galina Ivanova said she believed some of the allegations were serious but are difficult to prove. She gave the example of one polling station where it was reported that so many extra voters were brought in buses from other districts, claiming to have the right to vote outside their normal residential area, that the polling station ran out of ballot papers. She said the use of buses to transport voters had been more widespread than in previous elections.


    At least three voters at one Moscow polling station found their ballot-papers had been given to strangers with false ID papers, BBC Russian correspondent Yury Maloveryan reports. The voters at the station, No 2833 in Tushino district, plan to lodge complaints.


    Opposition blogger Alexei Navalny is calling for protests tomorrow against the conduct of the presidential election. "We have a right to assemble and it's a citizen's duty to come out and say that we're not happy with what's happened," he was quoted as saying by the Moscow Times.


    Billionaire candidate Mikhail Prokhorov voted in the village of Pamyati 13 Bortsov, outside the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk.

    Mikhail Prokhorov votes in the village of Pamyati 13 Bortsov, outside the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, 4 March

    The US Ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul, has disowned a tweet sent out in his name on the conduct of the election, BBC Monitoring reports. He said a tweet reading "Observers report a big number of violations at polling stations all across the country, this casts doubts on the legitimacy of the election" was sent not from his account, but from another Twitter account with a misleadingly similar name. The fake tweet has caused some excitement among Russian social media users, BBC Monitoring adds.


    United Russia official and MP Andrey Isayev describes the elections as "exemplary" and says they could become "a model to be followed by other countries", Interfax news agency reports

    Gavin Lee BBC News

    Russian election "the world's biggest reality show, with webcams in every polling station", famous Russian TV pres Tina Kandelaki tells me.


    Minutes from now the last polling stations in Russia are due to close and we should have some indication of the result.

    Gavin Lee BBC News

    I've watched the military move in around Pushkinskaya Square [central Moscow], circling the area with vehicles, with soldiers taking shelter from the cold inside, ahead of tomorrow's planned protest by the so-called white ribbon movement.


    Chechens, like any other citizens of the Russian Federation, voted on Sunday too.

    Chechen residents line up to get their ballot papers at a polling station in Tsentoroi, eastern Chechnya, 4 March

    Putin supporters have begun a rally on Lubyanka Square in Moscow, opposite the headquarters of the old KGB - Russian news agency Interfax.


    Vladimir Putin re-elected president for a third term, according to preliminary results and exit polls.


    Mr Putin won 58.3%, according to exit polls. Means he does not have to face a second round.


    Official preliminary results give Mr Putin 61.81% of the vote.


    This just in from BBC Monitoring: Hackers are making 1,300 attacks a second on the Russian central electoral commission's website, deputy chairman Leonid Ivlev tells Interfax news agency.


    Word of warning about those preliminary results giving Mr Putin 61.8%: they are based on a count of just 14.5% of ballots, according to the central election commission said.


    Based on those preliminary results, Gennady Zyuganov got 17.82%, Vladimir Zhirinovsky took 8%, Mikhail Prokhorov 7.57% and Sergei Mironov - 3.67%.

    1724: Leonid Ragozin BBC News

    Thousands of Putin's supporters gather by the Kremlin. Atmosphere of celebration.


    Gennady Zyuganov, the Communist candidate placed second against Mr Putin, has just told reporters the webcam experiment was a diversion to distract voters from a dishonest election. Mr Putin had the whole of Russia's state machine on his side, he says. "But I tell this, he won't be able to rule like he used to," he adds.


    "This was the cleanest election in Russian history," Putin campaign chief Stanislav Govorukhin tells Russian news agency Interfax.


    A Moscow police source says there are 100,000 Putin supporters on Manege Square, just opposite the Kremlin, preparing for a victory rally on the hour (Interfax).


    If you have just joined us, welcome to our live coverage of Russia's presidential election. Stay with us for updates on Vladimir Putin's reported first-round victory, analysis from our correspondents and comments from other readers. If you read Russian, you can follow the BBC Russian service's own live page. My colleagues there have just turned on their special election Twitter feed for cracking comment on the result.


    From the video streaming in live from Moscow, I can say the crowd at the Kremlin wall is impressive, snaking back to the Manege, and up Tverskaya street. People jigging to pop music in a light flurry of snow. Lot of tricolours and other flags rippling in the wind.

    Blake Hounshell, managing editor of Foreign Policy magazine

    For what it's worth (not much), Putin does seem better than those other guys.

    1758: Leonid Ragozin BBC News

    Slogans at Putin rally in Moscow: We trust Putin, Russia has made its choice, I voted for Putin.


    The official count has only begun, of course. With 20% of ballots counted, Mr Putin has increased his lead from 61.81% to 62.5% (Interfax).


    Svetlana in Russia writes: I really don't believe this election is honest. There can't be so many votes for Putin.


    Ilya in Philadelphia, USA emails: I voted in Philadelphia at polling station set up by the Russian Embassy. There were people outside performing an exit poll. They said that at that location about 70% voted for Prokhorov. I was told similar numbers were reported in Boston where my relatives voted.


    The Communists are refusing to recognise Mr Putin's victory (Ria-Novosti news agency). Another quote from their candidate, Gennady Zyuganov: "I cannot recognise [the election] as honest, fair or worthy."


    Ilya in Moscow writes: Such an outcome was inevitable... I wonder how many people will protest now?


    Alexander in Moscow writes: I voted today at my local polling station in Moscow. The order at polling station is excellent. I voted for Vladimir Putin because he is a true strong leader of Russia. My life became much better under his rule.


    Seeing more reaction breaking on Interfax: another candidate, Mikhail Prokhorov, is saying the election cannot be described as honest.


    Polina in Moscow writes: I'm not able to vote yet, as I'm only 17, but I wish I could have. In the beginning, Mr Putin was quite successful, but after 10 years the Russian government is corrupt. We desperately want something new.


    Here is another picture from a polling station today, this one in Moscow. The soldiers are queuing to vote with their ID cards.

    Voters in Moscow, 4 march

    Vladimir Putin was brought to power by the late Boris Yeltsin in 2000, and is credited by many older Russians with restoring economic stability after the chaotic 1990s. Moscow voter Alexander Pshennikov, 51, explained to the Associated Press earlier today why he backed Mr Putin: "Under Boris Nikolayevich [Yeltsin], life was simply a nightmare, but, you know, now it's OK. Now it's good, I'm happy with the current situation."


    Oleg in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia emails: The majority of my friends have voted for the Putin. There are a lot of things that I am not happy with, but Putin is the best candidate to hold the country together. Putin means stability and we should be proud of our country.

    1823: BBC Monitoring reports

    Russian state TV is saying the central electoral commission has received 86 reports of election violations. Commission officials say most of the complaints are about exclusion from voters' lists and absentee ballots.


    That figure of 86 violations reported by the central election commission contrasts with at least 5,000 found by independent Russian observers.


    Here you can see a map of Russia on the wall of the campaign headquarters of Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

    A map of Russia on the wall of the campaign headquarters of Vladimir Putin in Moscow, 4 March

    Lena in Dublin, Ireland writes: I am a native Russian speaker living in Dublin and I am delighted to see Vladimir Putin returned as president of Russia. There have been many protests in Moscow over Putin's bid to become President but he has done so much for the country and this good work isn't always reported.


    Tatyana in St Petersburg emails: I voted for Mr Putin because he is the best candidate. He has experience in ruling the country while the other candidates know only how to use persuasive and fine words, but are actually unable to rule the country.


    Alexander from Glazov, Russia emails: Half of my acquaintances didn't vote because they don't believe that they can change anything and that their votes will be stolen.


    Popular Moscow folk rock band Lyube on stage now at the giant Putin rally. Same band played for Mr Putin during the campaign.


    Frances in Moscow, Russia emails: The question is not about the suitability of Putin for Russia or the positive effect he could have on the growth of the country. The question is whether the opposition will face brutality in their attempts to challenge this government.


    Not everybody on Manege Square is there for Mr Putin's victory, AFP news agency reports. "We don't support him," one man said on condition of anonymity. "We've been forced to come here by our managers. We have a job, we have families, we can't afford to lose them."


    And here is the Communists' man, Gennady Zyuganov, telling reporters he diodes not accept it was an honest election.

    Gennady Zyuganov at his campaign headquarters  in Moscow, 4 March

    There is a motorcade moving now along New Arbat, the carriageway leading to the Moscow Kremlin, according to Russian tweeter Irina Vorobyeva (@Vorobievaya). "Putin heading to the rally?" she wonders.


    Any coincidence that Lyube is just now singing its hit song "Battalion Commander"?


    Polling analyst, Denis Volkov, has told the BBC the odds were stacked in Vladimir Putin's favour long before voting started. "There is no open access to these elections to independent candidates and there was no equal share of time on TV because, according to some estimates, Vladimir Putin got 70/75% of all TV time and other candidates got only 25."


    Putin and Medvedev have just taken the stage together in Moscow.


    "This is a very good day," Mr Medvedev says.


    "We won't surrender this victory," Mr Medvedev tells the crowd.


    Putin: "We won an open and honest fight."


    Putin warns against people who wanted to "smash Russia" and "usurp power".


    "We won," says Mr Putin. "Glory to Russia!"


    Mr Putin was applauded by the crowd, still whistling in support. He is heading off now, pressing flesh, smiling, Mr Medvedev at his side.


    Mr Putin still shaking hands, waving.


    Alex in London writes: The majority of people at the pro-Putin rallies tonight (and other rallies during the election campaign) were forced to go there by their managers - including one of my family members, who is freezing at Manege right now. Not many people can say "no" to the threat of losing a job in a current economy.


    Here you can see people attending the rally for Vladimir Putin on Moscow's Manege Square, some dressed in folk costumes.

    People attend the rally for Vladimir Putin on Moscow's Manege Square, some dressed in folk costumes, 4 March

    Cornelis in South Africa emails: My wife just called from Moscow, she is not a fan of Putin. But she and her friends did not see any violence or fraud during the poll. My wife is Russian and is politically active for the opposition. She believes this poll is fair and honest. One of her friends is working in a polling station, she showed my wife that it is impossible to do carousel voting.


    The BBC's Emma Wells has just sent this photo of security forces guarding the State Duma, close to where the Putin rally was being held.

    Police on guard outsiode the State Duma in Moscow, 4 March

    My colleagues at the BBC Russian service have got a superb Twitter feed of reaction to the election alongside their live page. Hope to translate some of the tweets.


    Mesfin in Texas, US writes: I lived in Russia for 16 years. I feel pain and sorrow when I see the political transformation in the country staggering and moving backwards. There was no election, it looked more like a referendum where no viable rival was allowed on the stage.


    How the candidates stand with 37.5% of districts declared:

    • Putin 63.77%
    • Zyuganov 17.25%
    • Prokhorov 7.5%
    • Zhirinovsky 6.99%
    • Mironov 3.73%

    I noticed Mr Putin tugging his nose when he appeared at the rally at the Kremlin but now I read he actually had tears in his eyes.


    And here is Mr Putin drying his eyes before the crowd.

    Vladimir Putin wipes his eyes at his victory rally in Moscow, 4 March

    BBC Monitoring has just released the full text of Mr Putin's victory speech:

    "Dear friends, first of all I would like to thank all citizens of Russia who voted in the Russian Federation presidential election today. Special thanks, of course, to those of you who today gathered here in Moscow and to everyone who supports us in every corner of our vast, immense motherland. Thanks to everyone who has said yes to a great Russia.

    "I once asked you: Will we win? ["Yes," the crowd shouts in reply.] We have won. ["Yes," the crowd shouts again.] We have won in an open and honest battle. [Chants of "Putin, Putin"]. Thank you friends, thank you.

    "We have won in an open and honest battle. But this has not just been a Russian presidential election, but also a very important test for all of us, for our entire people. This has been a test for political maturity and independence. We have shown that, indeed, no-one can impose anything on us. No-one can impose anything. We have shown that our people are indeed capable of easily making a distinction between a desire for renewal and political provocations whose sole objective is to destroy Russian statehood and usurp power. The Russian people has today shown that such scripts and scenarios will not succeed on our land.

    "Will they succeed? ["No," the crowd replies.] We have won today also thanks to overwhelming support from an overwhelming majority of our voters. We have scored an emphatic victory. We will work hard and in good faith. We will be successful. We call on everyone to unite around the interests of our people and our motherland.

    "I promised you that we would win. ["Yes," the crowd shouts.] We have won. Glory to Russia."


    Russian blogger Sergei Korolev \u200f(@s_korolev) tweets: "Result announced. Six more years. Those who didn't steal their fill will do so now."


    Alexander in Moscow, Russia writes: I voted for Putin as did the vast majority of the Russian nation. We need a strong leader for the next six years.


    Russia is a model of democracy for other countries, if Russia's chief electoral officer Vladimir Churov is to be believed. "More honest elections than those in Russia will not be held in other countries in the near future," he told Russia 24 TV. "At least until they begin to adopt our technical experience." I picked this quote up from the BBC Russian service's live page.


    Pavel in Moscow, Russia writes: I didn't vote but I think 60% is pretty much accurate when it comes to support for Putin.

    1952: Bridget Kendall Diplomatic correspondent, BBC News

    Whether the moisture on Mr Putin's cheeks was from tears of relief and satisfaction, or the result of the freezing cold of a Moscow March night, was not entirely obvious.

    1954: Bridget Kendall Diplomatic correspondent, BBC News

    What is already significant, is the reaction of other presidential candidates. In previous elections, those who stood against the Kremlin candidate have tended to give way graciously but this time some of the candidates were swift to come out with public statements to the media that were strikingly critical. What is more, this blatant antagonism about Mr Putin and the election as a whole was carried live and broadcast nationwide on Russian state television's rolling election programme.


    By law he could stand for a fourth term in 2018 - just what makes Vladimir Putin tick? Read our profile.


    Alex in Russia writes: I am dismayed by how many votes Mr Putin is collecting. I was hoping he'd get just above 50% or even face a run-off with Zyuganov. This election result may make him think he still has his previous support from people and popularity which is far from being true now.


    While 60% looks a comfortable win for Mr Putin, he did take 72% in 2004. In his first election, back in 2000, he won 53%.


    It has gone midnight in Moscow while people are getting up to go to work in Vladivostok in the far east. Take a look back at this long vote, in a huge country, via our election picture gallery.


    Mr Putin may have done even better than the exit polls suggested: he is being given 64.39% with returns in from half of all voting districts.


    Russian tweeter Sergey Smirnov (@sssmirnov): "I hope Putin is going to cry a lot more often in the next few years."


    Anna in Moscow, Russia writes: More than 60% can't be the result of fraud. There were many people who were observing the process. Personally I was not made to vote for Putin, my ballot was not checked and I didn't see anything like that. Russian people want him to be a president. It's a fact. There is no worthy alternative. But still, Russia does need reforms.


    Mr Putin is doing a live chat with workers in a tank factory in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg. Workers in hard hats with flags, some posing on a tank.


    Alexei Navalny (@navalny) is tweeting the Facebook page (link is in Russian) for tomorrow's protest rally on Pushkin Square, Moscow. The number of people "going" is 7,680 - which is down on the big rallies after the parliamentary election in December.


    The Facebook invitation to attend the Moscow protest on Monday evening (15:00 GMT) begins: "We consider the presidential election not free and not legitimate. It was run by the same electoral commission which stole our votes on 4 December [at the parliamentary election]..."


    Elena in Moscow writes: Mr Putin has definitely won a legitimate election. No-one could get a massive number of votes by using the alleged carousel voting. The opposition claims are outrageous. I voted for Mr Putin, as did most of my family and friends.


    Alexei Navalny (@navalny) has also tweeted a humorously doctored video grab of Mr Putin and Mr Medvedev at the victory rally this evening.

    Parody image of Mr Putin and Mr Medvedev at the Moscow rally, 4 March

    Pro-Kremlin blogger Konstantin Rykov (@rykov) has been urging followers to retweet Mr Putin's rallying cry "Glory to Russia".


    Mr Rykov adds: "I'm off to HQ! To congratulate Putin! It's a truly like a weight off my shoulders now..."

    2058: Steve Rosenberg BBC News, Moscow

    After three months of anti-government protests in the Russian capital, there was no hint of conciliation. In comments aimed at those protesting against him, Mr Putin condemned political provocations and those who set out to destroy Russian statehood. Nobody, he said, can force their will upon us. But opposition figures have declared the presidential vote fraudulent. They plan a rally in the centre of Moscow on Monday evening.


    Final results in the election are expected by 06:00 GMT on Monday, Russian state TV reports.


    A protester in Russia writes: I cried when I saw the election results. Putin and his team are very critical about the opposition and portray them as those who want to get power and ruin the country. But this is not true. I took part in all the protests but I am not against Putin. I am just for fair elections.


    And that concludes our live coverage of the 2012 Russian presidential election. The BBC Russian service continues its Russian-language live page through the night.


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