Edward Snowden blasts Putin for 'rigged' election despite being given asylum

Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to employees of Uralvagonzavod factory in Nizhny Tagil Rus

The growing talk of a Putin lifetime presidency is being accompanied by increasingly dire rhetoric about Russia's confrontation with the West. Putin's allies are presenting his victory - which was accompanied by footage of ballot-stuffing and many reports of people ordered to vote by their employers - as a response to Western aggression. The Kremlin is now responding back to these allegations with its own.

They gathered widespread examples of apparent voting violations in Sunday's vote, but it's unlikely to seriously damage Putin given his widespread support. "Our way of life is being attacked and we need to defend ourselves".

In his next six years, the president is likely to assert Russia's power overseas even more strongly.

European papers quoted by the BBC agreed that Putin was probably helped in the election by the confrontation over Skripal, benefiting from the new Cold War climate he has created in Russian Federation.

"Several foreign leaders - I won't say their names - made their contribution", said head of the Central Election Commission Ella Pamfilova. Western countries are likely to see more Russia-linked hacking and propaganda aimed at disrupting elections or otherwise discrediting democracy - including the USA midterm elections in November.

Since first being elected president in 2000, Putin has stamped his total authority on the world's biggest country, muzzling opposition, putting television under state control and reasserting Moscow's standing overseas. He recently announced that Russian Federation has developed advanced nuclear weapons capable of evading missile defences.

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Now those Russian-backed Syrian forces are closing in on the last strongholds of Western-backed rebel forces.

"But this will not lead to any decline in the country's defence capacity", he said during a meeting with other candidates.

Although Putin has six years to consider a possible successor, uncertainty about his future is a potential source of instability in a fractious ruling elite that only he can keep in check.

Others were even blunter: "Putin has already been in power for a long time, of course, but this isn't for people like me to decide. That is why we should not be frightened by the results of these so-called elections".

The election was such a foregone conclusion that Putin gave only a perfunctory victory speech and said nothing about what he will do for his country.

Moscow's actions in Ukraine sent a warning signal to other countries in Russia's orbit that reaching westward is risky. Russians are convinced the best man to tackle the feeling of their country being besieged is Mr Putin, who is rebuilding its arsenal.

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But less likely are bigger changes such as overhauling the pension system, which is unpopular among a strong Putin voting base, or spending cuts in the security sector, unpopular among the ex-KGB friends in Putin's entourage. But personal incomes have stagnated, the health care system is crumbling and corruption is rife.

When asked if he intends to initiate changes in the Russian constitution that could eliminate term limits, Putin answered that he has no such plans "yet".

Speaking to reporters after the results were announced, he laughed off a question about running again in another six years.

"I think that in the United States and Britain they've understood they can not influence our elections", Igor Morozov, a member of the upper house of parliament, said on state television.

The Russian strongman ran against seven other candidates, but his most vocal critic Alexei Navalny was barred from the ballot for legal reasons and the final outcome was never in doubt.

Ksenia Sobchak, the only female candidate in the elections, came in fourth with 1.66 percent of the vote.

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