Russia's next president Dmitry Medvedev repeated his promise Sunday "to preserve the course set by President Vladimir Putin," who stood at his side to celebrate the win at a concert in Moscow. ( dpa )
Russian state television showed Medvedev in a leather jacket walking together with Putin across Red Square - a scene that mimicked the next president's campaign posters.
"Today is a unique day in our country, we have chosen the path long into the future," Medvedev told a crowd of more than 20,000 attending an election day concert.
Putin, in turn, congratulated Medvedev and said the elections were proof that Russians "live in a democratic state.
The incredibly popular Putin, who is barred from a third term in office, will be the first leader in Russian history to voluntarily step down from office.
But critics charge that the election was a Kremlin-orchestrated stage show to divide power between his hand-picked successor Medvedev and Putin, who has said he will become prime minister.
Early exit polls by state pollster VsTIOM showed Medvedev, the first deputy prime minister and Gazprom chairman, winning the elections with 69.9 per cent of votes, a figure that rivals Putin's 71.3 per cent win in 2004.
The other candidates had little more than 30 per cent of the vote between them.
Veteran Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov earned 19.57 per cent, ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky had 12.28 per cent, while the little-known Andrei Bogdanov won 1.5 per cent - though all are considered Kremlin-friendly candidates. The only liberal opponent, former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov, had his registration thrown out by the Central Election Committee.