(Sun) — Vladimir Putin swept to victory for a third time in Russia’s presidential poll but election monitors are already claiming it was rigged in his favour.

The premier wept last night at a victory parade as opponents complained the poll was “tainted”.

With nearly all ballots counted, the country’s Central Elections Commission said the ex-KGB strongman had almost 64 per cent of the vote.

But monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) echoed opposition complaints that the election was not fair and skewed in his favour.

Vote monitor Tonino Picula said: “The point of elections is that the outcome should be uncertain. This was not the case in Russia.

“According to our assessment, these elections were unfair.”

The OSCE monitors said Putin was given a clear advantage over his rivals in the media and claimed state resources were used to help him extend a lead.

And here’s the official State Department response:

“We are encouraged to see so many Russian citizens voting, monitoring voting in their local precincts, exercising their constitutional right to free assembly, and expressing their views peacefully about the political and electoral processes. The number of Russian election observers who monitored this vote is unprecedented and a sign that Russian society seeks to participate in the improvement of Russia’s democratic institutions. We also recognize the government’s efforts to reform the political system, including the reintroduction of direct elections for governors, the simplification of party registration procedures, and the reduction in the numbers of signatures needed to register presidential candidates.”