AP Top News at 11:40 p.m. EDT

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Putin basks in electoral victory that was never in doubt even as Russians quietly protest

Russian President Vladimir Putin basked in a victory early Monday that was never in doubt, as partial election results showed him easily securing a fifth term after facing only token challengers and harshly suppressing opposition voices. With little margin for protest, Russians crowded outside polling stations at noon Sunday, on the last day of the election, apparently heeding an opposition call to express their displeasure with Putin. Still, the impending landslide underlined that Russian leader would accept nothing less than full control of the country's political system as he extends his nearly quarter-century rule for six more years. Putin hailed the early results as an indication of “trust” and “hope” in him — while critics saw them as another reflection of the preordained nature of the election.