The Russian presidential election last Sunday was “clearly skewed” in favour of Vladimir Putin, an international team of observers has concluded. Their report has fuelled opposition activists’ anger at Putin’s return to the presidency. Tonino Picula, the head of an observer mission run by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, said the result was never in doubt and the vote had offered no genuine competition.

“The point of elections is that the outcome should be uncertain. This was not the case in Russia,” he said.

According to the central elections commission, Putin won nearly 64 per cent of the vote. Opposition leaders have denounced the result as “illegitimate” and brought thousands of people onto the streets to protest. Russians are furious about Putin’s return to the presidency and they fear a wider crackdown after hundreds were arrested following last Monday’s protest.