Russians are heading to the polls on Sunday to vote in a presidential election that is expected to usher in President Vladimir Putin’s fourth term.
Close to 109 million registered voters will have the right to cast their ballot in close to 100 000 voting stations across the 85 regions and republics of the Russian Federation.
Russian citizens will also be able to cast their ballots in 145 countries.
Russia’s Central Election Commission said voter turnout in Sunday’s (March 18) presidential election was higher than in 2012 in many regions.
At 14:00 Moscow local time (1100 GMT) the commission estimated turnout at around 34%, with five hours still to go before polls close.
With current President Vladimir Putin widely expected to win an easy victory, the biggest headache for his campaign was the possibility many voters, including Putin supporters, would not bother to come to the polls because they felt the outcome was already a foregone conclusion.
Putin opponents alleged employers with close ties to the state were ordering staff to go and vote, and send back evidence.
A day of voting across Russia’s 11 time zones began at 2000 GMT on Saturday (March 17) on Russia’s eastern edge, in the Pacific coast city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.
Voting will run until polls close at the westernmost point of Russia, the Kaliningrad region on the Baltic Sea, at 1800 GMT on Sunday. – Additional reporting by Reuters