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Russia Putin says he has ‘no intention of engaging in an arms race’

NEWLY re-elected Russian President Vladimir Putin said today that he had “no intention of engaging in some kind of arms race” despite repeated assertions by western European politicians of the need to counter a supposed threat from his country.

Mr Putin won his fourth presidential term yesterday with nearly 77 per cent of the vote, his strongest electoral support ever.

His closest rival was Pavel Grudinin, the candidate of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), who came second with 11.8 per cent. Rightwinger Vladimir Zhirinovsky came third with less than 6 per cent.

Speaking to reporters after meeting the seven other challengers, Mr Putin said that he would seek “to develop constructive relations with other countries. We will do all we can to solve all disputes with our partners using political and diplomatic means.”

Mr Putin’s government has been accused by politicians in the West, generally with little evidence, of meddling in their internal affairs.

They had in turn expressed varying degrees of support for Alexei Navalny, who was banned from running for president because of a fraud conviction. Mr Navalny had called for a boycott of the vote, which appeared to have little effect, with turnout increasing slightly to 67.5 per cent.

Despite the landslide, Mr Putin faces enormous challenges. He needs to diversify an economy still heavily dependent on oil and gas and to improve medical care and social services in regions outside Moscow.

At a press conference last night after the announcement of preliminary results, KPRF leader Gennady Zyuganov noted that the economic pledges contained in Mr Putin’s victory address were full of holes.

“The budget for the next three years has already been approved. And in it the amount spent on the economy has been cut by 17 per cent, for social services by almost the same amount and for community services by 32 per cent,” he warned.

Mr Zyuganov said that. despite Mr Grudinin presenting a serious alternative of economic and social investment, he had been smeared by the Russian media.

“What struck me most was that the country was deprived of an extremely important discussion of all the accumulated problems,” Mr Zyuganov said.

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