Voting stations are opening across Russian Federation as Putin seeks a fourth term

Kremlin: Spy scandal won't disrupt presidential election

Vladimir Putin Appeals To 'Love Of Fatherland' To Get Russians To Polls

Russian President Vladimir Putin's crushing re-election victory puts his opponents in a tough spot. They are facing unusually intense pressure to vote, to grant him a convincing new mandate to pursue his nationalist strategy.

The Russian leader's popularity remains high despite his suppression of dissent and reproach from the West over Russia's increasingly aggressive stance in world affairs and alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Observers monitoring the poll across Russian Federation reported hundreds of violations, but for the most part the vote was conducted peacefully.

Russian authorities had sought to ensure a large turnout to bolster the image that Mr Putin's so-called "managed democracy" is robust and offers Russians true choices.

"Judging by the current state of public opinion, future changes are likely to include stricter political control, further nationalization of private property, further shutting down the economic space, and new processes that make economic transactions in the country less sophisticated and more inefficient", he said.

Russian election officials moved quickly to respond to some of the violations.

He said his own group has come under increasing pressure as the elections approach, and warned that independent observers may be targeted by some kind of "attack" on voting day.

Turnout was at more than 67 percent as authorities used both the carrot and the stick to boost engagement in the polls. In Moscow alone, authorities are spending 50 million ($870,000) on balloons and festive decorations at polling stations.

Mr Putin looked relaxed on Sunday morning as he arrived at a polling station at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, where he has voted at the trio of elections he won in 2000, 2004 and 2012.

By 5pm Moscow time, authorities said turnout had hit almost 52%.

In the southern city of Tambov, the state-sponsored Youth Parliament has called an Instagram competition. Voters who took selfies at polling stations could enter a raffle for high-end electronics, including an iPhone X.

Alia Bhatt injured her right shoulder and arm while shooting for Brahmastra
She can only shoot for close-up scenes and the team is checking if they would need any right now", the source was further quoted. The Indian media reports citing a source stated "The team was shooting for a scene when Alia fell and hurt herself".

The election came amid escalating tensions between Russia and the West, with reports that Moscow was behind the nerve-agent poisoning this month of a former Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal, in Britain and that its internet trolls had mounted an extensive campaign to undermine the 2016 United States presidential election.

Putin's re-election comes amid rising tension with the West, particularly with the United Kingdom, which last week accused Russian Federation of using a nerve agent to poison a former spy and his daughter living in England.

"They are using everything: schools, kindergartens, hospitals - the battle for the turnout is unprecedented, " said Roizman, one of the rare opposition politicians to hold a significant elected office.

The Central Elections Commission said Mr Putin had won about 73% of the vote, based on a count of 30% of the country's precincts.

"Leave people alone", Pamfilova said at a recent session of the commission. Mobile-phone subscribers received SMS notifications reminding them to vote.

Putin has traveled across Russian Federation pledging to raise wages, pour more funds into the country's crumbling health care and education and modernize dilapidated infrastructure.

Sunday marks four years since Mr Putin signed a treaty declaring Crimea to be part of Russian Federation in a move that triggered a pro-Kremlin insurgency in east Ukraine, a conflict that has claimed over 10,000 lives.

The city of Moscow showed the most violations, about 500. 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.

Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption crusader and Russia's most popular opposition leader, has been campaigning for a nationwide election boycott since being officially barred from the ballot, last December.

Putin was also asked about the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain earlier this month.

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