Vladimir Putin's handpicked successor Dmitry Medvedev was headed for an easy victory in Sunday's presidential election, according to an exit poll and early partial results.
Medvedev's election will likely allow Putin to retain a measure of power in a nation whose wealth and global voice have grown while democratic freedoms have diminished during his eight years in office.
Medvedev, 42, the longtime protege Putin endorsed in December, was likely to win about 70.1 percent of the vote, according to a poll by the All-Russia Opinion Research Center, or VTsIOM. In a field of four that lacked any real challenger, Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov trailed with 16.8 percent, the exit poll said.
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