Vladimir Putin thanks nation for re-election, promises ‘breakthrough’

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MOSCOW, MArch 23: President Vladimir Putin thanked Russians on Friday for his landslide re-election to another six-year term, pledging to lead the country to an economic ‘breakthrough.’
Putin’s live televised statement came shortly after the Central Election Commission officially declared him the winner of Sunday’s election with nearly 77 percent of the vote, putting him on track to become the nation’s longest-serving leader since Josef Stalin.
“Such a powerful civic activity, your responsibility and consolidation are extremely important now when we face serious domestic and external challenges,” Putin said.
The massive victory, Putin’s best-ever electoral showing, will strengthen the president’s hand as he ponders his choices for shaping Russia’s political future beyond 2024: groom a dependable successor, scrap term limits or create a new position of power to keep ruling the country after his fourth term ends.
Putin vowed to fulfill his campaign promises, but warned Russians that “it would be utterly irresponsible to promise to do it instantly.”
He said that the country needs to make a “real breakthrough” in many spheres and move to encourage economic growth, raise living standards, modernize health care and education, revive the infrastructure and solve environmental and other problems. He stressed that Russia needs to make a “technological leap” to meet those challenges.
Putin also emphasized the need for alliances to achieve the ambitious goals, saying that “political affiliations mustn’t divide us.”
“Our unity, responsibility, a common vision of our goals and aspirations by millions of people must drive Russia forward,” he said. “I’m sure that together we will succeed.”
Putin has never faced a serious threat to his rule since he came to power on the eve of the new millennium. He won 53 percent of the vote in the 2000 presidential election, 71 percent in 2004 and 63 percent in 2012. (AP)