Vladimir Putin to lead Russian Federation for another six years

Frederick Owens
March 20, 2018

The Kremlin needs a high turnout to add greater legitimacy to a new term for Putin, who is already Russia's longest serving leader since Joseph Stalin.

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As US authorities investigate alleged Russian interference in US President Donald Trump's 2016 election win, Moscow has warned of possible meddling in the Russian vote.

Putin thanked voters for their support at a victory rally and said Russian Federation had a great future ahead of it provided its people stayed united.

"If anything is not going our way right now, that's thanks to the world which treats us so negatively, while he is trying to stand up to that". Some see Sobchak, the daughter of Putin's one-time patron, as a Kremlin project meant to add a democratic veneer to the vote and help split the ranks of Kremlin critics.

A voter casts her ballot inside a building of the Kazansky railway terminal in Moscow.

Kremlin officials privately acknowledge a worry that some of Russia's 110 million eligible voters will not bother casting ballots because they believe Putin is a shoo-in.

CCTV footage of a voting station in the Moscow suburb of Lyubertsy shows a woman taking a ballot from a table, looking around to see if anyone is watching, then putting it in the box.

At many polling stations the atmosphere was festive, with patriotic songs blasting out of speakers outside and cheap food available to voters.

"People were coming in all at once, (they) were entering in groups as if a tram has arrived at a stop", said one of the observers, Sergei Krivonogov. "It's a photographic report for our bosses".

When she hadn't voted by midday, "The chief of my unit called me and said I was the only one who hadn't voted", said the doctor, Yekaterina, who spoke on condition her last name not be used because she fears repercussions.

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"There is no intrigue".

"I think that in the United States and Britain they've understood they can not influence our elections", Senator Igor Morozov said on state television.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny had said he boycotted the presidential election and advised other Russians to do the same.

A Russian election monitoring group said Saturday it has registered an "alarming" rise in recent days in complaints that employers are forcing or pressuring workers to vote.

Polls opened at 8 a.m. Sunday in Russia's Far East regions of Chukotka and Kamchatka.

And the Kremlin remains at odds with Washington after the United States hit Russian Federation with new sanctions over its meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

The majority of voters see no viable alternative to Putin: he has total dominance of the political scene and the state-run television, where most people get their news, gives lavish coverage of Putin and little airtime to his rivals.

Since he took the helm in Russia on New Year's Eve 1999 after Boris Yeltsin's surprise resignation, Putin's electoral power has centered on stability, a quality cherished by Russians after the chaotic breakup of the Soviet Union and the "wild capitalism" of the Yeltsin years.

Putin is standing against a motley crew of seven Kremlin-approved challengers, including millionaire communist Pavel Grudinin and former reality TV host Ksenia Sobchak, but none are polling more than eight percent.

Ella Pamfilova, head of the commission organising the vote nationwide, has said any fraud would be stamped out.

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