Russian President Vladimir Putin winning his biggest ever election victory with 76.69% votes on March 19, 2018 will extend his political dominance of Russia by six years to 2024. If his term as prime minister is counted, Putin surpasses Leonid Brezhnev – whose 18-year reign ended in 1982, as the longest-serving leader in Russia’s modern history. And that will also make Putin the longest-serving ruler since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin – who ruled for 29 years and 43 days – from January 21, 1924 until his death on March 5, 1953 and served as Premier from May 6, 1941 to March 5, 1953.
Putin’s securing fourth presidential term following his sweeping victory has raised Western fears of spiralling confrontation as it has come at a time when Russia stands increasingly isolated internationally, which began with Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and continuing conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, besides allegations of cyber-attacks and meddling in foreign elections; and poisoning in Britain of a former Russian spy and his daughter.
However, Putin struck a softer tone towards the West and said that he had no desire for an arms race and would do everything he could to resolve differences with other countries. He expressed his desire to focus on domestic, not international, matters, and to try to raise living standards by investing more in education, infrastructure and health while reducing defence spending.
Putin at the end of his first press conference after the elections retorted tersely, “Everything flows, everything changes,” in responding to Kremlin correspondent Andrei Kolesnikov’s question, “In the coming six years, will we see a new Putin or an old one?” But in the days after Putin’s win, Russia observers have expressed scepticism that things in the country will indeed “flow and change”.
Putin’s comments are likely to be heard with some scepticism in the West following years of confrontation, as during his bellicose election campaign, Putin had unveiled new nuclear weapons which could strike almost any point in the world.
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