In this June 17, 2010 file photo, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin walks after inspecting a new Russian fighter jet after its test flight in Zhukovksy, outside Moscow, Russia. (AP)
MOSCOW (AP) -- Vladimir Putin has claimed victory in Russia's presidential election, which the opposition and independent observers say has been marred by widespread violations.
Putin made the claim at a rally of tens of thousands of his supporters just outside the Kremlin, thanking his supporters for helping foil foreign plots aimed to weaken the country.
Putin tallied 58-59 percent of Sunday's vote, according to exit polls cited by state television. Communist Party candidate Gennady Zyuganov received about 18 percent, according to the survey, and the others -- nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, socialist Sergei Mironov and billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov -- were in single digits.
With just over 20 percent of all precincts counted, Putin was leading the field with 63 percent of the vote, the Central Election Commission said.