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

President Donald Trump talks with reporters during a meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office of the White House Thursday

Vladimir Putin appears to have secured an overwhelming victory in presidential elections marred by widespread reports of vote-rigging and attempts to bolster the turnout.

In a widely expected outcome, the Central Election Commission, with just over 70 percent of the votes counted, announced that Putin, who has dominated the political landscape for the last 18 years, had won 75.9 percent of the vote. But Kremlin aides insisted the final result would show it had.

The voting projection, by pollster VTsIOM, put Communist party challenger Pavel Grudinin in second place with 11.2 percent.

Russian authorities had appealed to patriotic feelings by holding Sunday's election on the anniversary of Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

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

Nonetheless, activists posted videos online showing blatant violations. In Dagestan, an observer was beaten after refusing to stop filming ineligible voters.

His supporters and the non-governmental election monitor Golos reported ballot stuffing, repeat voting and Putin supporters being bussed into polling stations en masse.

Putin campaign spokesman Andrei Kondrashov credited the tension with the United Kingdom over the apparent Russian poisoning of former spy Sergie Skripal and his daughter for boosting turnout for the president. Some officials allege the British made up the incident.

A wave of anti-government protests in the past year also suggests growing fatigue with corruption scandals seeping through the Kremlin and Putin's inner circle of oligarchs.

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"People were coming in all at once, (they) were entering in groups as if a tram has arrived at a stop", said one of the observers, Sergei Krivonogov. "Our country hasn't poisoned anyone".

"It's a holiday. one that's important for me and my family and my country".

"It's quite obvious that if it were a military-grade nerve agent, people would have died on the spot", Putin said.

The results are expected to take a "minimum of two weeks". I am more afraid of anarchy, instability and war. Some who voted for Putin said they did so reluctantly because there was no real alternative.

"I will not go to vote". He was referring to 37-year-old Ksenia Sobchak, a former socialite and broadcaster, once famous for a raunchy reality television show. "There is no one else who can do it like Putin". "We said it right away", he said. I was three years old.

However, the Russian president, who has won the election granting him a fourth term in office, said he is willing to work with London on the probe. Several villages in Kamchatka and Chukotka reported turnout of 100 percent. "It's scary! He is the guy we trust and he can defend us", she said, echoing a sentiment heard from big cities to small villages. There were other arrests reported in St. Petersburg and Sochi.

Given the lack of real competition in the presidential race, authorities struggled against voter apathy, putting many of Russia's almost 111 million voters under intense pressure to cast ballots. State-owned polling company VCIOM projected a turnout of 71 percent.

As of 1500 GMT, the voter turnout stood at 59.93 per cent, slightly up from 58.3 percent in 2012, Xinhua quoted the CEC as saying. British Prime Minister Theresa May said it was "highly likely" Russian Federation was responsible for the poisoning. He switched between the two roles once to circumvent a law banning him from serving more than two consecutive terms as president. Will someone else take the helm, or will he change the constitution?

But such conflict with global powers is unlikely to hurt Putin at home.

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