Worldwide monitors slam Russian election as 'overly controlled'

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a youth forum “Russia Land of Opportunity” in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a youth forum “Russia Land of Opportunity” in Moscow

Russians began voting Sunday in a presidential election widely expected to cement President Vladimir Putin's power for another six years. They included discrepancies in ballot numbers, ballot boxes placed out of sight of observation cameras and last-minute voter registration changes likely created to boost turnout.

Across the country in the city of Yekaterinburg, a Russian doctor also said she was being coerced to vote.

By early evening Sunday, the non-governmental election monitoring group Golos had counted 2,000 incidents of voting irregularities, including observers being prevented from carrying out monitoring.

Western diplomats also criticized Russian Federation for holding the vote on the Crimean peninsula, a bold decision by Putin, whose current term has been characterized by provocations against Western powers.

After the weekend's election in Russian Federation and the expected coronation of Vladimir Putin as president yet again, some 20% of the world's population and 17% of its entire land mass will could be ruled by two individuals serving, unchallenged, for life.

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

Tweets from a polling station in the Moscow suburb of Korolov show a feats laid on for voters to convince them to make the journey.

The Central Election Commission said Monday that communist Pavel Grudinin came in a distant second with 11.78 percent.

With Russian President Vladimir Putin guaranteed to win another term, authorities are conducting get-out-the-vote efforts to ensure a good turnout.

Russian election authorities have annulled voting results in five districts as they investigate ballot stuffing and other problems in the presidential election.

"I think that in the United States and Britain they've understood they can not influence our elections", Igor Morozov, a member of the upper house of parliament, said on state television.

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His United Russia party helped parliament move the date of the vote to the fourth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Voters also faced billboards celebrating Russian greatness - a big theme of Putin's leadership.

At this polling station in Moscow - voters could get a free blood test for cancer signs. In Moscow alone, authorities spent 50 million rubles ($870,000) on balloons and festive decorations at polling stations.

In a change, people can vote at any polling station.

"But Russia is also needed when it comes to resolving the major global conflicts and that is why we want to remain in dialogue", the minister said.

With 99.8 percent of the vote counted, results showed Putin won nearly 77 percent of the vote, well up from his showing in the last election in 2012.

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.

Polls show that most Russians view the takeover of the Black Sea peninsula as a major achievement despite subsequent Western sanctions.

Many voters credit Putin, a 65-year-old former KGB spy, with standing up for Russia's interests in a hostile outside world, even though the cost is a confrontation with the West.

Navalny - who called on his supporters to boycott the "fake" vote and sent more than 33,000 observers across the country to see how official turnout figures differed from those of monitors - said there had been "unprecedented violations".

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