Russia will remain a difficult partner, Germany's new foreign minister has said, following the re-election of Vladimir Putin as Russian president.

Questioning the fairness of the election, Heiko Maas said that the European Union must be able to continue to talk to Russia, despite a host of issues.

Mr Putin extended his rule over Russia for another six years at a time when his ties with the West are on a hostile trajectory.

Russia's Central Election Commission said that he received almost 77% of the vote in the presidential election held yesterday.

A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that she will soon congratulate Mr Putin on his election win.

"The chancellor will - as is usual in such cases - congratulate him. She will write a telegram very soon," the spokesman said.

Meanwhile the Department of Foreign Affairs has said that no message of congratulations has been sent following Mr Putin's victory.

In a statement, it said: "No message of congratulations has been sent. EU relations with Russia are being discussed at the FAC today and by leaders later in the week." 

In a late night victory speech in Moscow, Mr Putin told a cheering crowd he interpreted the win as a vote of confidence in what he had achieved in the last few years in tough conditions.

"It's very important to maintain this unity," he said, before leading the crowd in repeated chants of "Russia!"

He told a meeting of supporters afterwards that difficult times were ahead, but that Russia had a chance to make "a breakthrough."

The overwhelming victory, however, has been overshadowed by widespread reports of vote rigging, and an election campaign in which, according to the Kremlin's critics, a genuine opposition was prevented from participating.

"The result of the election in Russia was as unsurprising to us as the circumstances of the election. We can't talk about a fair political competition in all respects as we would understand it," Mr Maas told reporters, arriving at a monthly meeting of EU foreign ministers.

"Russia will remain a difficult partner. But Russia will also be needed for solutions to the big international conflicts and so we want to remain in dialogue," he said.