Vladimir Putin won a landslide victory in Russia's presidential election, receiving 76.67% of the vote, the central election commission has said.

Mr Putin, who has ruled Russia for almost two decades, recorded his best ever performance in yesterday’s polls, electoral officials said with 99.8% of ballots counted.

Mr Putin's victory will extend his total time in office until 2024, by which time he will be 71. It will be his fourth Kremlin term.

Only Soviet dictator Josef Stalin ruled for longer.

Mr Putin has promised to use his new term to beef up Russia's defences against the West and to raise living standards.

In a widely-expected result, an exit poll by pollster VTsIOM showed Mr Putin, who has already dominated the political landscape for the last 18 years, had won 73.9% of the vote.

Backed by state TV, the ruling party, and credited with an approval rating around 80%, his victory was never in doubt.

None of the seven candidates who ran against him posed a threat, and opposition leader Alexei Navalny was barred from running.

Opinion polls had given Mr Putin support of around 70%, or nearly ten times the backing of his nearest challenger.

The exit poll showed his opponents, Vladimir Zhirinovsky of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party had just 6.7% of the vote and TV personality Ksenia Sobchak had 2.5%. 

Critics alleged that officials had compelled people to come to the polls to ensure that voter boredom at the one-sided contest did not lead to a low turnout.

Russia's Central Election Commission recognised that there were some irregularities, but were likely to dismiss wider criticism and declare the overall result legitimate.

Putin loyalists said the result was a vindication of his tough stance towards the West.

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

"Our citizens understand what sort of situation Russia finds itself in today."

Mr Putin, 65, has been in power either as president or prime minister, since 2000.


Read: Turnout and nerve agent attack overshadow Russian election


Allies laud the former KGB agent as a father-of-the-nation figure who has restored national pride and expanded Moscow's global clout with interventions in Syria and Ukraine.

Critics accuse him of overseeing a corrupt authoritarian system and of illegally annexing Ukraine's Crimea in 2014, a move that isolated Russia internationally.

Western sanctions on Russia imposed over Crimea and Moscow's backing of a pro-Russian separatist uprising in eastern Ukraine remain in place and have damaged the Russian economy, which only rebounded last year after a prolonged downturn.

Britain and Russia are also locked in a diplomatic dispute over the spy poisoning incident, and Washington is eyeing new sanctions on Moscow over allegations it interfered in the 2016 US presidential election, something Russia flatly denies.

The constitution limits the president to two successive terms, obliging him to step down at the end of his new mandate - as he did in 2008 after serving two four-year terms.

The presidential term was extended from four to six years, starting in 2012.

The majority of voters see no viable alternative to Mr Putin: he has total dominance of the political scene and the state-run television, where most people get their news, gives lavish coverage of Mr Putin and little airtime to his rivals.