Putin loyalists win polls amid rigging claims

President Vladimir Putin's loyalists swept to victory in most local election races held across Russia, preliminary results showed yesterday, but observers said the vote was openly rigged.

The independent monitoring group Golos estimated that as many as half of the votes for the Kremlin's party in one Siberian city may have been falsified.

The Central Election Commission's results showed Kremlin-backed candidates and incumbent governors won all five gubernatorial races held on Sunday. The Kremlin party, United Russia, also dominated mayoral races and those for local legislatures held in 77 of Russia's 83 regions.

Golos recorded more than 1,000 violations nationwide, including voter roll irregularities and multiple voting.