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Buhari congratulates Putin as observers charge fraud in election victory

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President Muhammadu Buhari has extended “sincere congratulations” to President Vladimir Putin of Russia on his victory in the recent presidential election, as Western leaders drag their heels in congratulating the Russian leader.

In a letter on behalf of himself, the government and people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the President said Putin’s “success for the fourth time in the election is a clear testimony of the confidence” Russians have in his leadership.

Critics derided Putin’s reelection win as only cosmetically democratic. The Russian leader was elected to a third six-year term with about 75 percent of the vote after a campaign in which rival candidates were excluded and even arrested, and during which state-controlled media showered praise on Putin.

Russian election observers denounced what they said were large-scale violations in the presidential election, including ballot-stuffing that was captured on state-controlled cameras.

Golos, an election-monitoring organiSation, said it registered more than 1,500 violations in regions across Russia. Several cases of people stuffing ballot boxes at polling stations, including near Moscow, were recorded on cameras set up by the authorities to ensure a transparent vote.

“A choice without a real competition, as we have seen in this election, unfortunately is not a real choice,” Michael Georg Link, one of the joint heads of the observers from the 57-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said Tuesday.

Opposition leader Alexey Navalny said data compiled by his observers at polling stations showed that the official turnout of 67.5 per cent was inflated by 10 percentage points. MR Navalny was barred from contesting the election and had called for a boycott of Sunday’s vote in protest.

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