Putin Eyes Fourth Term As Russia Goes To Polls In Presidential Election

Russians on Sunday went out to partake in the presidential election in which Vladimir Putin is seeking a fourth term in office.

With the vast country stretching across 11 time zones, voting began in the Russian far-east at 20:00 GMT on Saturday, and opened in Moscow nine hours later.

Putin’s return to the Kremlin for another six-year term faces opposition from seven other candidates including a millionaire communist, Pavel Grudinin, a former reality television host, Ksenia Sobchak and veteran nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky.

Speaking on national TV in Moscow, Putin said he would be happy about a result that gives him the “right to perform the duties of president”.

Putin’s main challenger, Alexei Navalny, has been prohibited from standing, for legal reasons. Navalny has since urged voters to boycott the election.

Vladimir Putin, 65, has been Russia’s dominant leader since 1999, either as president or prime minister.

In some regions, Russians were being encouraged to vote with the offer of free food and discounts in local shops, according to local reports.

Sunday’s vote falls on the fourth anniversary of a treaty, signed by President Putin, that formally declared Crimea part of Russia following its annexation from Ukraine.

Kiev, in retaliation, has barred Russians living in Ukraine from partaking in the polls.  It said access to Moscow’s diplomatic missions would be blocked.

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