Russian Federation reportedly luring voters to the polls with free iPhones, cars

Phillip Cunningham
March 19, 2018

Vladimir Putin just eased his way into an expected victory on Sunday to be Russia's President for another 6-year term.

The Russian leader's popularity remains high despite his suppression of dissent and reproach from the West over Russia's increasingly aggressive stance in world affairs and alleged interference in the 2016 US election.

Some analysts say that after 18 years of leadership-both as President and Prime Minister-Putin fatigue may be spreading across the country, and many Russians are expected to skip the polls. "But that's good for people here, life is hard", she said.

Across the country in the city of Yekaterinburg, a doctor also said she was being coerced to vote.

Days after calling President Trump a "serious threat to U.S. national security", retired General Barry McCaffrey joined Joy Reid this morning to stand by that stunning assertion.

More than 1,500 global observers are joining thousands of Russian observers to watch the vote.

The 65-year-old ran as part of the All-Russia People's Front movement, and was challenged by Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin, who made his first-ever presidential bid this year.

Putin loyalists said the result was a vindication of his tough stance towards the West.

Turnout-boosting efforts have been the most visible feature of the campaign. In Moscow alone, authorities are spending 50 million rubles ($870,000) on balloons and festive decorations at polling stations.

He criticised the seven contenders challenging Mr Putin for failing to protest against ballot stuffing and other irregularities tainting the election, saying on his blog that "such candidates aren't worthy of your vote". The first polling stations welcomed early voters at 8:00 am local time [20:00 GMT] on Saturday while polling started in Moscow nine hours later, at 5:00 am GMT, and will proceed until the polls close at 8:00 pm [17:00 GMT].

Overall, 97,000 polling stations, 400 of them located overseas, are hosting the elections.

Russia's Election Commission stated it was the target of a denial of service attack on its servers during the election.

Voters in Russia's Perm region said they were coming under pressure from their employers to vote Sunday - and to prove it. Messages were sent Friday to regional employees, warning that information about their voting habits would be submitted to management.

Putin has pledged to raise wages, pour more funds into the country's crumbling health care and education and modernize dilapidated infrastructure.

Russia's parliament, which is controlled by Putin's United Russia party, moved the vote date back to March 18 to coincide with the fourth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Monitors organised by opposition leader Alexei Navalny and others complained of ballot stuffing and other methods of increasing turnout in Sunday's votes, but an official from Russia's elections committee said no serious violations had taken place. Exit polls show Grundinin with some 15% of the vote.

He told her a YouTube broadcast that she was a "parody of a liberal candidate" and her involvement in the campaign helped the Kremlin cast the opposition in a negative light, and rejected her proposal to join forces. Navalny and his supporters had called for an election boycott but the extent of its success could not immediately be gauged.

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