Putin wins landslide victory in Russia's presidential election

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking to the supporters at a Liberal fundraising event in Toronto

From the Pacific Ocean to the Baltic Sea across 11 time zones, Russia's electorate went to cast their votes in a presidential election that Vladimir Putin is widely expected to win.

Days after calling President Trump a "serious threat to USA national security", retired General Barry McCaffrey joined Joy Reid this morning to stand by that stunning assertion. The major goal for Russian authorities is producing a big turnout that will hand Putin the legitimacy he craves and provide a convincing mandate for his fourth term.

Russian Presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak casts her ballot for the Russian presidential election, in Moscow, Russia, March 18, 2018.

His election win will take his rule to 2024, when he will be 71.

His friend, 21-year-old modeling agent Max V, also chose not to vote, saying there weren't enough candidates to choose from.

"I am sure of the correctness of the course that I propose for the country", he said.

But employees of state and private companies reported coming under pressure to vote, while students were threatened with problems in their exams or even expulsion if they did not take part, according to the opposition-leaning Novaya Gazeta newspaper.

A 43-year-old mechanic had to vote if he wanted to keep his job.

Yevgeny Roizman, a Kremlin opponent who is mayor of the industrial city of Yekaterinburg, said officials were using inducements to persuade people to vote.

He spoke on condition that his last name not be used out of concern that his employer - the Moscow city government - would find out.

She had earlier said that anyone involved in violations would be caught.

In Moscow, first-time voters were being given free tickets for pop concerts and health authorities were offering free cancer screenings at some polling stations. There are some 111 million voters and the regime is hoping that majority will cast their ballot.

With the vast country stretching across 11 time zones, polls opened in the Russian Far East at 2000 GMT on Saturday and will close in Kaliningrad, the country's exclave on the European Union border, at 1800 GMT today.

Nikolay Bulayev of the Central Election Commission said 34 per cent of eligible voters had made their way to polling stations by midday Moscow time, nine hours before counting was due to begin in central Russian Federation.

Levada's Stepan Goncharov said the independent pollster-which was barred by law to publish research related to the election during the campaign - expected turnout to be between 57 and 68 per cent.

The voters will be eligible to vote in more than 97,000 polling stations in Russian Federation and another 400 in 145 countries around the world.

In response, London expelled 23 Russian diplomats, prompting a tit-for-tat move by Moscow. Several showed election officials stuffing boxes with ballot papers.

Russians in Crimea will be able to vote on Sunday, which coincides with the fourth anniversary of the peninsula's annexation by Moscow.

The Ukrainian government announced that only Russian diplomatic officials would be allowed to cast ballots in Sunday's vote, which Vladimir Putin is set to win. Putin had faced a serious opposition movement then but has since boosted his popularity with Russia's actions in Ukraine and Syria.

With some 22% of the vote counted, it appears that Putin will avoid a run-off vote with the runner-up, having secured more than half of the votes. "The others, it's a circus".

He expressed hope that Putin will continue to stand up to the United States and the West and will improve living standards at home.

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