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Putin on track for commanding win as Russians head to polls

20 March 2018

With little doubt that Vladimir Putin would win with a landslide in Russia's presidential poll yesterday, attention turned to whether the Kremlin could rally a large turnout for the strongman.

Navalny, who has criticized fraud and corruption in the Russian government, dismissed Putin's challengers on Sunday's ballot as "puppets", and he vowed to continue defying the Kremlin with street protests.

"We are a great big team together and I am a member of your team", he said, after a colorful show of high-energy musical performances.

"He is a strong politician, a strong president, who led Russian Federation to rebirth", said Vitaly Tretyakov, dean of the faculty of television journalism at Lomonosov Moscow State University.

But employees of state and private companies reported coming under pressure to vote, while students were threatened with problems in their exams or even expulsion if they did not take part, according to the independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper.

Although his victory was a foregone conclusion, the high score is a major boost to Putin, who already enjoys sweeping powers over his country. The Central Election Commission said that with about a third of the ballots counted, more than 73.1 percent were for Putin.

Amid widespread public apathy about the outcome and discontent over stagnating living standards, the Kremlin's only challenge is to ensure turnout for Sunday's vote is sufficiently high to give Putin's record fourth term a stamp of legitimacy.

Putin underscored that the Russian population is the country's "only source of power" and said that the Russian people have always decided their own fate by themselves based on their "conscience, understanding of truth and justice and love for the Fatherland".

Mr Put had faced seven minor candidates on the ballot.

One of Putin's fiercest critics, protest leader Alexei Navalny, was barred from running in the election because of a financial crimes conviction that he said was trumped up.

There are eight candidates in Sunday's Russian presidential election, including President Vladimir Putin.

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Leaders from the United States, Germany and France have already joined the accusing Russian Federation of being behind the attack in a statement this week.

And on election day, it was clear that there were efforts to encourage turnout, although it was unclear if they were officially supported.

But the disputes likely worked in Mr Putin's favour, reinforcing the official stance that the West is infected with "Russophobia" and determined to undermine both Mr Putin and traditional Russian values. But Putin's popularity remained strong, apparently buttressed by nationalist pride.

With the victory, Putin will lead Russian Federation for another six years. The regional election commission said the results from the Lyubertsy station would be invalidated.

A United Kingdom inquiry found that two Russian agents poisoned Litvinenko at a London hotel bar in 2006 by spiking his tea with highly radioactive polonium-210, and that Putin "probably approved" Litvinenko's killing.

Residents in Perm, Yekaterinburg and Moscow showed to The Associated Press messages from employers pressuring workers to vote and requiring them to report on when and where they cast ballots.

"The program that I propose for the country is the right one", he declared.

Election officials flew to far-flung regions to collect votes from indigenous herders, while cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov - the only Russian now aboard the International Space Station - cast his ballot by proxy.

The Communist Party's ideology is a mixture of Soviet nostalgia and conservative values, combining patriotic loyalty to the Kremlin with criticism of Putin's economic policies.

A state-run pollster estimated the voter turnout at 63.7 percent, according to state media, slightly lower than the last presidential election at 65 percent.

The diplomatic tension increased further Friday afternoon when London's Metropolitan Police said it is treating as murder the death of Nikolai Glushkov, a close associate of Putin opponent Boris Berezovsky - a one-time billionaire who was himself found hanging dead in 2013 in his house outside London.

Putin on track for commanding win as Russians head to polls