Vladimir Putin reelected as Russia's president

Kommersant  Yuri Senatorov via Reuters FILE

Kommersant Yuri Senatorov via Reuters FILE

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.

And on social media, pictures show feasts and novelty entertainment laid on at election stations, to lure jaded voters convinced Putin's victory is a foregone conclusion.

Most people who spoke to AFP said they voted for Putin, praising him for restoring stability and national pride after the humiliating collapse of the Soviet Union.

Boris Johnson said the trail of blame for the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury "leads inexorably to the Kremlin".

"I voted for Putin", said Lyubov Kachan, a teacher in the settlement of Ust-Djeguta, in southern Russian Federation.

"There is no one else who can do it like Putin".

Russian Federation elections: Vladimir Putin poised for new 6-year term
An official win of more than 73% of the vote would be a major boost to Putin, who already enjoys sweeping powers over his country. Putin urged voters to "use your power to choose the future of our great country" during a televised address before the election.

This reflects the current President's soaring popularity among Russian voters, who showed up in significant numbers to cast their ballots.

He criticised the seven contenders challenging Mr Putin for failing to protest against ballot stuffing and other irregularities tainting the election, saying on his blog that "such candidates aren't worthy of your vote".

Reuters reporters witnessed multiple people in different locations voting in groups, and then taking photos of themselves in front of the ballot boxes on their phones.

Galina Zhukova, a pensioner, came to polling station number 1512 in Zelenodolsk, about 800 km (500 miles) east of Moscow, with her husband, Alexei.

The commission said it is quickly responding to claims of violations in the vote. "It's a photographic report for our bosses". Asked why one woman was photographed, Kostina said: "Her work asked her to report back".

"There is no intrigue". However, the OPCW has previously said the properties of Novichoks are unknown and they may not even exist. His most vehement foe, anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny, was rejected as a presidential candidate because he was convicted of fraud in a case widely regarded as politically motivated. He and the Central Election Commission may have gone through some of the motions of a democratic election - campaign speeches, letting opponents' names appear on the ballot, urging Russians to go to the polls - but, much like previous elections, the outcome was all but guaranteed.

Skripal Case: Johnson Says UK May Target 'Corrupt' Putin Allies
Russian Federation denies involvement and said the accusations against Putin were "shocking and unforgivable". Trump said previous year that Putin had assured him the Russians did not interfere in the campaign.

"We would call this the "shuttle bus election", Zhdanov told a briefing.

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 eight presidential candidates were barred from campaigning Sunday, but much-loved entertainers appealed to voters in a televised message aired throughout the day to fulfill their civic duty and go to the polls.

At the same time due to the vote may seem like a replicate of the Putin's rule since 2012 election, this one is mainly charged with the anti-Western sentiment.

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.

Videos taken from the election commission's live stream of polling stations also appeared to show some instances of officials stuffing ballots into boxes.

Putin on track for win as polls open
It is still not clear how the Skripals came in contact with the nerve agent. Czech Foreign Minister Martin Stropnicky called it an "absurd accusation".

Mr Navalny was excluded from the election because of an embezzlement conviction that he said was manufactured by the Kremlin.

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