Putin says he 'doesn't want arms race' with the West

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he's not seeking an arms race with the west.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he's not seeking an arms race with the west. Photo credit: AAP

Russian President Vladimir Putin has struck a softer tone towards the West after winning his biggest ever election victory, saying he had no desire for an arms race and would do everything he could to resolve differences with other countries.

Putin's victory will extend his political dominance of Russia by six years to 2024.

That will make him the longest-serving ruler since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

But Putin, 65, used a Kremlin meeting with the candidates he soundly defeated in Sunday's election to signal his desire to focus on domestic, not international, matters, and to try to raise living standards by investing more in education, infrastructure and health while reducing defence spending.

"Nobody plans to accelerate an arms race," said Putin.

"We will do everything to resolve all the differences with our partners using political and diplomatic channels."

His comments, which are likely to be heard with some scepticism in the West following years of confrontation, mark a change in tone after a bellicose election campaign during which Putin unveiled new nuclear weapons he said could strike almost any point in the world.

Russia is currently at odds with the West over Syria and Ukraine; allegations of cyber attacks and meddling in foreign elections; and the poisoning in Britain of a former Russian spy and his daughter.

With nearly 100 per cent of the votes counted, the Central Election Commission (CEC) announced that Putin, who has run Russia as president or prime minister since 1999, had won 76.69 per cent of the vote.

With more than 56 million votes, it was Putin's biggest ever win and the largest by any post-Soviet Russian leader.

But the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), a rights watchdog, said there were restrictions on fundamental freedoms.

"Choice without real competition, as we have seen here, is not real choice," the OSCE said in a statement.

The CEC said earlier on Monday it had not registered any serious complaints of violations.

Backed by state TV and the ruling party, and credited with an approval rating of around 80 percent, Putin faced no credible threat from a field of seven challengers.

His nearest rival, Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin, won 11.8 per cent while nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky got 5.6 per cent.

His most vocal opponent, anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny, was barred from running.

Reuters