Vladimir Putin was elected to serve as Russia’s president for another six years. To his supporters, such as those we encountered celebrating at an election night government rally in Moscow, Putin is a hero, the strong man who brought order to Russia after the chaos of the Yeltsin years.
They love his carefully cultivated image: the horse-riding, judo black-belted, stand-for-no-nonsense action man who has taken the country back to its rightful place on the world’s stage.
But elsewhere in Moscow that night, under the watchful eye of state security and police, Putin’s political opponents gathered to express their disapproval.
Disappointed by the result after enjoying a surprising late surge in the anti-Putin camp in the weeks before the poll, many of them said that his years at the top of Russian politics had seen the country’s reputation become synonymous with cronyism and corruption, and that with Putin at the helm inner cliques have been allowed to run Russia for their own benefit and personal gain.