Turnout boost in Russian election thanks to UK reaction to Salisbury attack, claims Moscow
Vladimir Putin's crushing victory in the Russian presidential campaign was helped by the furore over the Salisbury nerve agent attack, a Moscow spokesman has claimed.
Mr Putin won a massive 76% of the vote in the election, with the Kremlin saying turnout was at around 60%.
The result was largely a formality, especially as opposition leader Alexei Navalny was barred from standing after being indicted on what he claims are trumped up embezzlement charges.
Election monitors also said there were numerous irregularities, with videos appearing to show election officials stuffing ballot boxes and reports of voters being bussed into polling stations.
After the results were announced Mr Putin laughed off suggestions he could run for a fifth term when his new mandate runs out in six years' time.
"What you are saying is a bit funny. Do you think that I will stay here until I'm 100 years old? No!" he told reporters.
Andrei Kondrashov, a spokesman for the Putin campaign, said the row with Britain over the attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal - which the UK has blamed on the Russian state - had boosted turnout.
“Ten days ago sociologists had believed it [turnout] would be about 50 to 60%,” he said.
“Now we can see that the number is higher than we expected. Much higher. This is largely thanks to the UK.
“So I would like to thank the UK for helping us with this high turnout, which we ourselves could not have dreamt of.”
Russia has announced it is expelling 23 British diplomats, closing the UK consulate in St Petersburg and shutting down the British Council in response to Theresa May's decision to kick out 23 Russian officials.