West sends muted reaction to Putin’s victory

As Vladimir Putin won a landslide majority of votes in Russia’s presidential election Sunday, Western leaders seem to be reluctant to congratulate the president-elect, while Western media takes a critical stance.

The United States congratulated the Russian people on the completion of the presidential election, but hesitated to congratulate Putin personally.

"The United States congratulates the Russian people on the completion of the Presidential elections, and looks forward to working with the president-elect after the results are certified and he is sworn in," says the statement issued by State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland.

Amid allegations of vote-rigging, the US urged Russia to conduct “an independent, credible investigation of all reported electoral violations.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke with Putin on the phone about developing a “stronger relationship,” despite “differences and areas of concern.” He also avoided congratulating the president-elect.

Downing Street issued a very clear endorsement of the poll results, though, with Cameron pointing out that “even NGO polling data puts Putin above the 50 per cent required to win the first round.”

Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said the EU “takes note of the preliminary results of the presidential elections and the clear victory of Vladimir Putin,” but did not congratulate the Russian prime minister on his success.

There has been a warmer reaction from one of Russia’s most important partners, Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated Putin and reassured him that she is willing to continue developing bilateral relations between Germany and Russia.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy also congratulated Vladimir Putin and expressed hope for further constructive cooperation between France and the Russian Federation.

The leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States, Presidents of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, the leaders of China and Japan were among the first to congratulate the president-elect on his landslide victory.

Western leaders have echoed each other, calling for greater political freedom and plurality in Russia.

However the Western media, by and large, is giving the events a much more negative outlook.

US media mostly focused on discontent among many Russians, with some outlets going as far to claim “rampant fraud" and a “stolen election.” RT’s Gayane Chichikyan remarks that this could insult the majority of the Russians who voted for Putin. Not only the vote, but all the opinion polls conducted before it, confirm the outcome, she adds.

Richard Spencer, founder of the online magazine Alternative Right, believes that both the left and the right in the American media are unified in treating Putin as a threat. They view him as a pariah because he questions the world order that Washington wants, Spencer told RT.

Watch RT's interview with Richard Spencer

Putin’s victory has also seen overwhelmingly negative coverage in the UK media. Russia expert Martin McCauley explained to RT that the British press is hostile to Putin because he is seen as a “hard man, somebody who is going to be very difficult to deal with.” “They are more favorably disposed toward President Medvedev because he appeared to be more Western, and he didn’t use incendiary language, he didn’t use threats and so on – he wasn’t a tough man.”

Watch RT's interview with Martin McCauley