Russians vote in presidential election across 11 time zones

The headquarters of the FSB security service the successor to the KGB in central Moscow

Apart from Putin, the other seven contenders in the fray are: Sergei Baburin from the All-People's Union party; Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin; Civil Initiative party candidate Ksenia Sobchak; Communists of Russia party chairman Maxim Suraykin; Presidential Commissioner for Entrepreneurs' Rights Boris Titov; co-founder of the Yabloko party Grigory Yavlinsky; and head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia Vladimir Zhirinovsky.

The Kremlin was hoping for high voter numbers to give greater legitimacy to Putin's historic fourth term as Russian Federation faces increasing isolation on the world stage over a spy poisoning in Britain and a fresh round of United States sanctions.

The polling stations across Russian Federation opened on Sunday for the 2018 presidential election.

Putin's victory will extend his total time in office to almost a quarter of a century, until 2024, by which time he will be 71.

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.

Yekaterina said she isn't sure what she'll do with her ballot, musing that "maybe I'll just write 'Putin is a moron.'" But she clearly understands that not showing up at the polling place Sunday will not only endanger her job, but will reflect badly on her boss, whom she likes.

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Employees of state and private companies have reported coming under pressure to vote, while students have been threatened with problems in their exams or even expulsion if they do not take part, according to the opposition-leaning Novaya Gazeta newspaper.

A 43-year-old mechanic said he questioned whether it was worth voting.

Yevgeny Roizman, a Kremlin opponent who is mayor of the industrial city of Yekaterinburg, said officials were using inducements to persuade people to vote. Many took photographs of themselves voting, saying they were needed as proof.

Nina Bostanova, a pensioner in Ust-Djeguta, said she decided not to vote. The first polling stations welcomed early voters at 8:00 am local time [20:00 GMT] on Saturday while polling started in Moscow nine hours later, at 5:00 am GMT, and will proceed until the polls close at 8:00 pm [17:00 GMT]. There are some 111 million voters and the regime is hoping that a lot of them will cast their ballot.

Sunday's election is expected to further embolden Putin both at home and in world affairs.

Voting fraud was widespread in Russia's 2011 parliamentary vote, triggering massive protests in Moscow against Putin's rule.

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Voting ended at 2 p.m. EDT.

Putin's main foe, opposition leader Alexei Navalny, was barred from the race because of a criminal conviction widely seen as politically motivated.

Russia's Central Election Commission also said it was looking into claims of ballot stuffing in Siberia's Kemerovo region.

In response, London expelled 23 Russian diplomats, prompting a tit-for-tat move by Moscow.

In one case, a senior election official inspecting a polling station said the photographs of voting should not be allowed, and ordered election staff there to stamp it out. A man accused of tossing multiple ballots into a box in the far eastern town of Artyom was arrested.

Authorities also appealed to patriotic feelings by holding the vote on the anniversary of Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

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