President Vladimir Putin cruised to an expected victory on Sunday with exit polls showing he got almost 74 percent of the vote, allowing him to secure his fourth six-year term as president and cementing his control over the world's largest country - even as opponents warned of widespread fraud and ballot stuffing.
With 22 percent of the votes counted, mostly in eastern part of the country, Vladimir Putin leads with 72 percent of the vote, well ahead of the simple majority needed to avoid a run-off.
"Right now the turnout numbers are higher than we expected".
"It's not something you can argue about", she said at a cafe Saturday.
She had earlier said that anyone involved in violations would be caught. "This is just a circus show", she said. The only question is how many will actually turn up to vote and by what margin he will win.
A March 9 survey by state-run pollster VTsIOM gave Putin, who was first elected president in 2000, support of 69 per cent.
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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 independent observer before stuffing a ballot box.
"There is no question that Mr. Putin in particular is an active threat to US national security interests, as well as those of our North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies", he said.
Leaders around the world are watching the election closely to ensure there's no meddling in the election like they alleged during after Donald Trump won the presidency.
Turnout-boosting efforts have been the most visible feature of the campaign.
Mr Putin's nearest competitor, Pavel Grudinin, had received 13.2% so far, according to the central election commission.
First-time voters in Moscow were being given free tickets for pop concerts, and health authorities were offering free cancer screenings at selected polling stations, the AP reported.
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Overall, 97,000 polling stations, 400 of them located overseas, are hosting the elections.
On Sunday, Russia's Central Election Commission claimed it had been the target of a hacking attempt coming from 15 unidentified nations that was deterred by authorities.
And while McCaffrey granted that others in the administration have been tough on Russian Federation, "I can not understand why President Trump simply won't respond to this guy who is running an active criminal oligarchy in Russian Federation which is hostile to USA and allied interests".
Putin has traveled across Russian Federation, pledging to raise wages, pour more funds into the country's crumbling health care and education and to modernize dilapidated infrastructure. She is the only candidate who has openly criticized Putin in the campaign.
Putin, who has been in power for 18 years, was widely expected to glide into another six-year tenure with most polls suggesting he could take around 70 per cent of the vote. Polls show that most Russians see the takeover of that Black Sea peninsula as a major achievement despite subsequent Western sanctions. Navalny has called for a boycott of the vote.
Some 145,000 observers were monitoring the voting in the world's largest country, including 1,500 foreigners and representatives from opposition leader Alexei Navalny's movement, and they and ordinary Russians reported hundreds of voting problems.
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