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Putin clinches Russian presidency, says there was proposed agreement to free Navalny before death

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Vladimir Putin has thanked the Russian citizens after early election results showed him winning his country’s presidency in a landslide.

In his victory speech, delivered after results showed him winning with 87% of the vote, Putin called his win an example of the trust of Russian citizens.

Among the tasks he said his administration would tackle in the coming term are strengthening the Russian Federation’s defense capabilities and issues of special operations. He went on in his speech to call the election results a manifestation of trust on the part of citizens.

He also said Russians in border areas — a reference to Ukraine — are showing courage and no one has intimidated them and will not be able to do so. Law enforcement officers, he said, will identify and take measures against those who are fighting against Russia.

Putin went on to thank all Russian citizens for their support and trust.

While taking reporters’ questions following his victory speech, Putin claimed a deal to release imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, prior to his death, had been proposed.

“A few days before Navalny passed away, I was told that there was an idea to exchange him for people in prison in Western countries,” Putin said.

The Russian President said he agreed, with one condition — “so that he does not return,” he said.

Reflecting on the incident, Putin said, “Unfortunately, what happened had happened.”

Voting in the Russian presidential election ended Sunday. Putin faced no real challengers in the election.

Voter turnout for the election across Russia was 74.22%, according to the commission. Huge lines of voters appeared at embassies throughout Russia and abroad in the hours before the polling stations closed.

The final day of voting came amid protests by thousands of Russians who took part in “Noon against Putin” demonstrations in Russia and abroad. Many protesters held signs demanding the war in Ukraine be stopped.

More than 75 people in 17 Russian cities were detained on the last day of voting in the presidential election, officials said.

Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who died in a Russian prison last month, supported the protests and cast her vote at the Russian embassy in Berlin.

“Putin is not a politician, he’s a gangster. Alexei Navalny became famous in Russia and hated by Putin precisely because, from the beginning of his fight, he openly described Putin and his allies as gangsters who had seized and used power only for their own enrichment and to fulfill their personal ambitions,” Navalnaya wrote in an opinion piece published Wednesday in the Washington Post.

She claimed her husband was “murdered in prison on Vladimir Putin’s direct order.”

An independent election monitor, Golos, received 1,580 reports of possible violations at the polling stations.

By the end of the third day of voting, the number of Russians detained for arson at polling stations and spoiling ballots with paint had reached at least 35 people. The most notorious case occurred in Perm, where a 64-year-old woman detonated a powerful firecracker, investigators said. According to preliminary data, her arm was torn off.

Putin won the elections in 2018 with 76.69% of the votes from those who took part in the election. Voter turnout of the 2018 presidential elections was about 68%.

Before the voting ended Sunday, Anatoly Antonov, the Russian Ambassador to the United States, told the state news agency TASS that Moscow does not attach importance to Washington’s opinion on the results of the current presidential elections in Russia.

Antonov stressed that Russia has already rejected the position of the United States, which has stated that it does not intend to recognize the results of the vote in new Russian regions.

“We don’t give a damn about you a hundred times,” Antonov said.

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