Russian voters readies to hand Putin new term
Russian voters are gearing up for a presidential election today that Vladimir Putin is guaranteed to win.
They are facing unusually intense pressure to vote, to grant him a convincing new mandate to pursue his nationalist strategy.
Candidates were barred from campaigning yesterday, but the message to voters was clear from billboards celebrating Russian greatness - a big theme of Putin's leadership - and Kremlin-friendly media coverage.
Putin urged Russians on Friday to "use your right to choose the future for the great Russia that we all love".
While Putin has seven challengers on the ballot, none is a real threat. The last time he faced voters in 2012, he faced a serious opposition movement, but since then he has boosted his popularity, thanks to Russian actions in Ukraine and Syria.