Russia's Vladimir Putin wins by big margin

A Russian Navy sailor during the early voting for the 2018 Russian presidential election at polling station

18, 2018. Polls have opened in Russia's Far East regions for the presidential election in which Vladimir Putin is seeking a fourth term in the Kremlin. Voting will conclude at 2 p.m. EST in Kaliningrad, the Baltic exclave that is Russia's westernmost region, and initial results are expected soon afterward.

The tension between the United Kingdom and Russia just keeps ramping up, with the British Foreign Secretary now directly blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin for the chemical attack in Salisbury. Mr Putin's campaign had hoped for a large turnout, to give him the strongest possible mandate.

The government has tried to create a carnival atmosphere with music, food and prizes to convince more people to visit the polls.

Putin delivered his vote early on Sunday morning at a polling station in central Moscow. "Any that gives me the right to perform the duty of president", he said. When our friends in Great Britain face a challenge, the United States will always be there for them.

Sources inside Russia's ruling elite say they anticipate he will repeat the manoeuvre he deployed in 2008, the last time he faced term limits, when a loyal lieutenant took over the presidency while Putin governed from behind the scenes.

The main opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, was barred from the race.

Election officials said efforts to encourage a higher turnout are in line with the law. "Real competition would make his win more significant, but he does not want to go that far".

Russian opposition presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak cast her ballot and urged Vladimir Putin's critics to vote instead of boycotting.

In the absence of further constitutional changes, he can not run again, so many analysts see the current vote as marking the start of the fight to choose his successor.

Many voters credit Putin, a 65-year-old former KGB spy, with standing up for Russia's interests.

Russian Federation insists it had no motive to target Skripal with what Britain says was a highly potent Soviet-designed nerve agent called Novichok, in the first such attack in Europe since World War II.

"But if one abstains from this decision, then this key and determining choice will be made without taking into account your opinion", Putin said in a special address to voters.

"He sorted our lives out, he's irreplaceable for the state", said Kiryukhin. She is the only candidate who has openly criticised Mr Putin in the campaign.

He has deployed more than 30,000 observers to monitor the polls and on Sunday, his team - which calls the vote "a staged procedure to re-appoint Putin" - began publishing a rolling list of violations from polling stations.

"People were coming in all at once, (they) were entering in groups as if a tram has arrived at a stop", said one of the observers, Sergei Krivonogov. "It's a photographic report for our bosses".

"I therefore ask you to come to the polling stations on Sunday, use your right to choose a future for the great Russian Federation that we love".

The Russian government says it's preparing to retaliate after new USA sanctions against Moscow for allegedly interfering in the 2016 American presidential election. They say USA and European sanctions imposed over the Ukraine crisis are a price worth paying.

"I would like to tell both those who have gathered here in Moscow and our supporters across our entire country: thank you for this result", he stressed.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, "The response will come very quickly, I can assure you", Tass reports.

The Ukrainian government announced that only Russian diplomatic officials would be allowed to cast ballots.

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