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Vladimir Putin has claimed victory in Russia’s presidential election, which the opposition and independent observers say has been marred by widespread violations.

Putin made the claim at a rally of tens of thousands of his supporters just outside the Kremlin, thanking his supporters for helping foil foreign plots aimed to weaken the country.

Putin tallied 58-59 percent of Sunday’s vote, according to exit polls cited by state television. Communist Party candidate Gennady Zyuganov received about 18 percent, according to the survey, and the others — nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, socialist Sergei Mironov and billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov — were in single digits.

With just over 20 percent of all precincts counted, Putin was leading the field with 63 percent of the vote, the Central Election Commission said.

AP

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