Vladimir Putin told tens of thousands of supporters at a rally in downtown Moscow that he had won Sunday's presidential elections in a “fair and open fight."
""I told you we would win and we won!" said a jubilant Putin, flanked by outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev, told a crowd of tens of thousands of supporters at a rally in downtown Moscow.
"We urge everyone to unite around the interests of Russia," he added, his voice cracking with emotion and his eyes moist.
According to preliminary results, Putin is leading with about 63.4 of the vote. His closest competitor Gennady Zyuganov, has gained about 17 percent of the vote.
“I cannot recognize these elections as fair, honest and worthy,” Zyuganov said. "I see no reason to congratulate anyone."
The elections took place against the backdrop of mass demonstrations that were triggered by allegations of vote fraud in favor of Putin's United Russia party at December's parliamentary polls.
Protest leader Yevgenia Chirikova told RIA Novosti that she had witnessed “disgusting” vote fraud at a polling station in her hometown of Khimki, just outside Moscow, at Sunday's vote.
“I don’t know why anyone would need such a victory,” she said. “There have been so many people insulted not only here, but all across Russia that it’s frightening to think what will happen tomorrow.”
"These were not elections, but a disgrace," opposition Left Front movement leader Sergei Udaltsov said on his Twitter blog. "They spat in our faces again. "Tomorrow we hit the streets!"
There was a heavy security presence in downtown Moscow, with trucks full of riot police parked outside major metro stations.
The mood at Putin headquarters was celebratory.
“This was the cleanest election in Russian history," Putin campaign chief Stanislav Govorukhin said.
“Today is a clear sign that the people have made their choice for a great Russia,” said Russian film director and Putin supporter Nikita Mikhalkov. “The part of the opposition that does not listen to anything and tries to declare the elections illegitimate doesn’t interest Putin.”