Putin on track for win as polls open

Getty Images Vladimir Putin is seeking a fourth term as president

Getty Images Vladimir Putin is seeking a fourth term as president

Chizhov pointed out that the United Kingdom chemical weapons research facility, Porton Down, is only eight miles (12 kilometers) from Salisbury, where Sergei Skripal - a former Russian intelligence officer convicted in his home country of spying for Britain- and his daughter were found on March 4.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russian Federation responded on Saturday, expelling 23 British agents and closing the British Council, a cultural center, in Moscow.

Early on Saturday, Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced it had ordered the British diplomats to leave within a week and indicated it could take further action should there be what it called more "unfriendly" moves. U.K. Ambassador Laurie Bristow was summoned to the ministry and told that the actions are "in response to the provocative actions of the British side and the unsubstantiated accusations" against Russian Federation, the ministry said. The foreign ministry said that if Russian Federation has been stockpiling nerve agents this would amount to a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, of which Moscow is a signatory.

Russian Federation announced Saturday it is expelling 23 British diplomats and threatened further retaliatory measures in a growing diplomatic dispute over a nerve agent attack on a former spy in Britain.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said on Sunday that Russia has been stockpiling the deadly nerve agent used to poison a Russian former double agent in England and has been investigating how such weapons can be used in assassinations.

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While Russia has vigorously denied involvement in the attack, Western powers see it as the latest sign of alleged Russian meddling overseas.

Putin faces no meaningful opposition in Russian Federation - not least because his chief critic Alexei Navalny has been banned from running. Russian Federation has demanded that Britain share samples collected by investigators.

"We have not raised any tensions in our relations, it was the decision by the British side without evidence", he told The Associated Press. "And this will continue, because this is our foreign policy: very aggressive and very unpleasant".

UK Prime Minister Theresa May told MPs that personnel from the Defence Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Centre at Porton Down in Wiltshire had identified the substance used on them as being part of a group of military-grade nerve agents developed by Russian Federation known as Novichok.

Russian Federation argues it has turned the tide of the worldwide fight against Islamic State extremists by lending military backing to Syria's government.

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The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Sweden on Saturday all rejected a suggestion by Zakharova that the nerve agent might have originated in their countries. Czech Foreign Minister Martin Stropnicky called it an "absurd accusation".

Counter-terrorism police who are carrying out the investigation into the poisoning have renewed their appeal for sightings of Mr Skripal's burgundy BMW 320D saloon auto, registration HD09 WAO, in Salisbury on the morning and early afternoon of the Sunday, March 4, attack. It is still not clear how the Skripals came in contact with the nerve agent.

Not long after he was poisoned, Russian exile Nikolai Glushkov was found dead in his London home in what police now believe was a murder.

Voters appeared to be turning in out in larger numbers Sunday than in Russia's last presidential election in 2012, when Putin faced a serious opposition movement and violations like multiple voting, ballot stuffing and coercion marred the voting.

Money from the fraud identified by Sergei Magnitsky had been traced to a dozen countries and he United Kingdom "is the only country where they have refused to open a money laundering investigation", said Mr Browder, who describes himself as Mr Putin's "number one enemy".

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