Putin was criticised by international election observers a day after claiming victory on 64 per cent of the vote.
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) raised serious questions about the election’s validity due to “unequal” state funding of the campaigns and skewed media access and coverage.
“The point of elections is that the outcome should be uncertain. This was not the case in Russia. There was no real competition and abuse of government resources ensured that the ultimate winner... was never in doubt,” said OSCE’s Tonino Picula.
Reports suggested that some 500 peaceful protesters were locked up.
Prime Minister David Cameron stopped short of congratulating Putin on the elections yesterday, instead saying in a phone call that he had been following developments closely.