Voting in Russia begins, country set to elect Putin for fourth term

NEW DELHI March 18, 2018: Voting in Russia began on Sunday and the country is set to elect Vladimir Putin to a historic fourth term, media reports said on Sunday.

The results of the election would be declared on March 19.

Since taking power 18 years ago, Putin has stamped his total authority on the country, silencing opposition and reasserting Moscow’s lost might abroad.

Polling at around 70 percent, the macho leader is sure to extend his term to 2024 despite a lacklustre campaign ahead of a summer when global attention will be glued to Russia as it hosts the football World Cup.

Polls first opened in Russia’s far-east at 8 am (Russian time). The polling will open in Moscow nine hours later, media reported.

Russians residing in the country’s easternmost regions of Kamchatka and Chukotka began casting votes after the polling opened, media reports said.

At least 111 million Russian citizens are expected to cast votes to choose the country’s president for the next six years.

There is no meaningful opposition in the running, and Putin’s fiercest political opponent, Alexei Navalny, has been barred from competing.

Despite a lacklustre campaign, the 65-year-old Putin is the clear front-runner.

Putin has sought to use the election run-up to emphasise Russia’s role as a major world power, recently boasting of its “invincible” new weapons and continuing Moscow’s support for the Syrian regime in a bloody civil war.

Rising tensions with the West over the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal in Britain, and new sanctions from Washington over alleged election meddling, strengthen the impression of a Russia at loggerheads with the rest of the world.