Vladimir Putin offers to assist United Kingdom in Sergei Skripal poisoning inquiry

People cast their ballots at a polling station in Yelizovo about 30 kilometres north-east from

An exit poll and early returns suggest that Vladimir Putin handily won a fourth term as Russia's president Sunday, adding six years in the Kremlin for the man who has led the world's largest country for all of the 21st century.

According to the POF, 77 percent of voters cast their ballots for the incumbent head of state, the second was Pavel Grudinin, the candidate from the Communist Party, with 11.8 percent, the third - Vladimir Zhirinovsky with 5.9 percent of votes.

Putin's critics have slammed the election as unfair, citing the Kremlin's tight control over the media, quelling of the opposition and restrictions on some election monitors to ensure a free vote.

The results of other candidates are extremely low.

In India, 2,291 Russian citizens cast their votes in the Russian presidential election, which is three times more than during the 2016 parliamentary elections, when about 700 people voted.

Putin's opponents alleged officials were trying to inflate the turnout.

Members of a local election commission prepare a polling station ahead of Russia's presidential election in Simferopol, Crimea.

The 65-year-old former KGB officer has sought to use the campaign to emphasise Russia's role as a major world power, boasting of its "invincible" new nuclear weapons in a pre-election speech.

He added: "We support exactly what the Prime Minister said and we condemn Russian Federation for this, condemn them".

"Our thoughts will turn to the future of our great country and the future of our children", said the man who is already Russia's longest-serving leader since Stalin. "We destroyed all our chemical weapons under the supervision of worldwide organizations, and we did it first, unlike some of our partners who promised to do it, but unfortunately did not keep their promises", Putin said.

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"After he brought Crimea back, he became a hero to me". After declaring victory Sunday, Putin flatly denied Moscow played any part in it. He also said if the British claim that they were poisoned by a Soviet-designed nerve agent were true, the victims would have died instantly.

In response, London expelled 23 Russian diplomats, prompting a tit-for-tat move by Moscow.

In a major escalation of allegations against the current Kremlin government, Mr Johnson told BBC's The Andrew Marr Show: "We actually have evidence within the last 10 years that Russian Federation has not only been investigating the delivery of nerve agents for the purposes of assassination, but has also been creating and stockpiling Novichok". Putin had faced a serious opposition movement then but has since boosted his popularity with Russia's actions in Ukraine and Syria.

But he seems certain to extend his rule to 2024 despite a lacklustre campaign and a litany of domestic problems such as widespread poverty and poor healthcare.

NAN reports that the majority of voters see no viable alternative to Putin: he has total dominance of the political scene and the state-run television, where most people get their news, gives lavish coverage of Putin and little airtime to his rivals.

"I will not go to vote".

"And the rest of the candidates are clowns", interjected his wife Anna, 35.

Election officials flew to far-flung regions to collect votes from indigenous herders, while cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov - the only Russian now aboard the International Space Station - cast his ballot by proxy.

Exit polls are not final, and official results will be released in coming hours.

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