Skripal Case: Johnson Says UK May Target 'Corrupt' Putin Allies

Police officers get dressed in protective suiting at a car recovery depot in Norton Enterprise Park where Sergei Skripal's car was originally transported in Salisbury Britain

Israel Issues Russia Free Condemnation on Skripal Poisoning REUTERS Henry Nicholls

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a youth forum "Russia, Land of Opportunity" in Moscow on Thursday.

Russia's Vladimir Putin ordered the downing of a passenger plane that had reportedly been overtaken by hijackers planning to target the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014, the President said in a new film.

Opinion polls show Putin, 65, with a commanding election lead, all but guaranteeing him another term that will take him to almost a quarter century in power - a longevity among Kremlin leaders second only to Josef Stalin.

Heads of schools and state enterprises have put pressure on their employees to vote, as in previous elections, in some cases telling workers they should bring in a list of names of friends or relatives who were also going to the polls.

"Now is the moment for Putin to jam the lid down and send a message to people: 'You do this, you're going to die, '" he added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman says a mushrooming diplomatic scandal over the poisoning of an ex-spy in Britain won't disrupt Russia's presidential election.

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But Putin's approval ratings have remained sky-high, boosted by a slavish domestic media and foreign interventions including the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Along with imposing sanctions on 19 individuals and five entities including Russian intelligence services, the Trump administration publicly blamed Moscow for the first time for a campaign of cyber attacks stretching back at least two years that targeted the USA power grid including nuclear facilities.

Russian Federation denies involvement and said the accusations against Putin were "shocking and unforgivable". His nearest rival Pavel Grudinin, the Communist Party's candidate, is on just 7 percent. She was the only candidate to criticize Putin.

Members of the honour guard march during the changing of guards ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by the Kremlin wall in Moscow, Russia, March 15, 2018. "And now is not the time to bear personal grudges against me instead of the government". The sanctions are the first use of the new powers that Congress passed past year to punish Moscow for meddling in an election that Trump won over Democrat Hillary Clinton. He was barred because of a corruption conviction he says was fabricated by the Kremlin.

Navalny has called for boycotting the vote.

He said: "Sooner or later, the British will have to show some proof to those "colleagues" who say they are with United Kingdom on this; sooner or later will have to stand up its accusations".

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Buffeted by lower oil prices and the effect of Western sanctions, Russia's gross domestic product expanded by only 1.5 percent last year, well below the robust growth Russians had come to expect in the earlier years of Putin's rule.

"They didn't hit Putin's power structure and they didn't team up with Europe", Brian O'Toole, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank and a former senior adviser at the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, said of the administration's actions.

His next term may also be overshadowed by uncertainty over his plans once it ends.

Trump said previous year that Putin had assured him the Russians did not interfere in the campaign.

Validmir Ashurkov, an ally of anti-Putin opposition leader Alexey Navalny said he'd also like a chance to return to Russian Federation, but "even if my criminal case was closed, there's nothing to stop it or something similar being opened again after my return".

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Russia, which denies any involvement in the incident, condemned May's decision as unacceptable and vowed a swift response. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson warded off "Russophobia" claims, saying he had no issue with the Russian people.

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