MOSCOW (Reuters) - Prime Minister Vladimir Putin claimed victory in Russia's presidential election on Sunday, with tears rolling down his cheeks at a victory rally attended by tens of thousands of supporters in central Moscow.
"I promised you we would win. We have won. Glory to Russia," Putin told the rally close to the walls of the Kremlin. "We won in an open and fair struggle."
Putin said the Russian people had clearly rejected the attempts of unidentified enemies to "destroy Russia's statehood and usurp power."
"The Russian people have shown today that such scenarios will not succeed in our land," said Putin, flanked by outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev. "They shall not pass!"
Putin's re-election is good for Syria and Iran but a political set-back for the West. Last week, he clearly warned against military intervention in Syria or an attack on Iran in scathing criticism of the West on Monday as he laid out his foreign policy priorities less than a week before Russia's presidential election.
Putin said the West had backed the Arab Spring to advance its interests in the region, and that instead of promoting democracy the revolts had given rise to religious extremism.
Putin defended the Russia-China decision earlier this month to veto a United Nations resolution condemning Syrian President Bashar Assad's crackdown on protests, saying that Moscow wouldn't allow a replay of what happened in Libya, where NATO airstrikes helped Libya's rebels oust Moammar Gadhafi's regime.