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MOSCOW (AP) — Prime Minister Vladimir Putin rolled to victory in Russia's presidential election on Sunday, according to exit polls cited by state television, but the vote was tainted by claims of violations, including "carousel voting" in which voters were bused around to cast several ballots.
Putin tallied 58 percent, according to a nationwide exit poll conducted by the VTsIOM polling agency. Another exit poll by the FOM opinion survey service showed Putin received 59 percent of the ballot.
Official vote results from the far eastern regions where the count was already completed seemed to confirm the poll data. With just over 20 percent of all precincts counted, Putin was leading the field with 63 percent of the vote, the Central Election Commission said.
But if thousands of claims of violations made by independent observers and Putin's foes are confirmed, they could undermine the legitimacy of his victory and fuel protests. The opposition is gearing up for a massive rally in downtown Moscow on Monday. Golos, Russia's leading independent elections watchdog, said it received numerous reports of "carousel voting," in which busloads of voters are driven around to cast ballots multiple times.