Putin on track for commanding win as Russians head to polls

PA Wire  PA Images                   Theresa May has set Russia deadline of midnight tonight to respond

One election commission worker in the republic of Dagestan, which traditionally registers extremely high official turnout figures, told AFP around 50 men entered the station where he was working and physically assaulted an observer before stuffing a ballot box. Irina Konovalova, the head of the election commission for the Moscow region, says all ballots in the box were declared invalid.

Outside the polling station, a 31-year-old who identified herself by her first name and patronymic, Anna Sergeyevna, said she voted for Putin.

Mr Putin's nearest challenger, Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin, secured around 13% of the vote, according to partial results, while nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky received around 6%.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday cast his vote in Russian presidential election. The.

The 65-year-old former KGB officer used an otherwise lacklustre presidential campaign to emphasise Russia's role as a major world power, boasting of its "invincible" new nuclear weapons in a pre-election speech.

She said "every extra percentage point" for Mr Putin is a result of those who refuse or do not bother to vote.

Critics alleged that officials had compelled people to come to polling booths to ensure that the one-sided contest did not prompt people to stay at home.

Critics think Sobchak has the tacit support of the Kremlin so that the election looks more democratic, which she denies.

Putin is expected to overwhelmingly win another six years in office.

Sunday marked four years since 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 more than 10,000 lives. A cyberattack originating in 15 different countries hit the website of the Central Elections Commission overnight, according to Pamfilova, the Interfax news agency reported. Such attacks are very common.

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Given the lack of real competition in the presidential race, authorities struggled against voter apathy, in the process putting many of Russia's almost 111 million voters under intense pressure to cast ballots. 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. Over 100 million people, across eleven time zones, were eligible to cast their ballots for eight candidates - although Vladimir Putin is widely expected to be returned to power. He won 63.6% of the ballots in the 2012 election, but the number of people who turned out this time was not immediately clear.

The Ukrainian government, insulted by Russia's holding the election on the anniversary of Crimea's annexation, refused to let ordinary Russians vote.

But memories of mass protests in Moscow when Putin switched back with Medvedev and returned to the Kremlin may put the Russian leader off this option. Ukraine is also angry over Russian support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, where a deadly conflict continues.

Mr Putin's campaign spokesman reportedly thanked the United Kingdom for the higher than expected turnout of around 60% following the diplomatic row over the Salisbury spy poisoning .

Putin is certain to win in Sunday's election, so voter apathy is widespread.

The big push to get the vote out has been aided by a social media campaign.

None of the seven candidates who ran against him posed a threat, and opposition leader Alexei Navalny was barred from running.

Voting started in the easternmost parts of the country at 8am Kamchatka time on Sunday morning - 8pm GMT Saturday night - and the last polling stations will close 22 hours later at 8pm local time in Kaliningrad, the exclave bordering Poland and the Baltic, the Russia Today reported.

Putin won in a landslide on Sunday, one day after China's parliament unanimously re-appointed Xi to a second term.

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