Putin looks set for seal of approval as voters head to the polls in Russia

Vladimir Putin was expected to tighten his grip on power in Russia as the country went to the polls in national and regional elections on Sunday. His ruling United Russia party looked on course to win comfortably, despite a decline in popularity albeit one which has so far not affected the president’s personal ratings. It will almost certainly gain an absolute majority, analysts predict. “Some newcomers are likely to enter parliament, but the chamber will continue to be dominated by pro-Kremlin parties,” said Otilia Dhand, from risk consultancy Teneo Intelligence.

The campaign wasn’t interesting. They all promise a lot but they’re treading a familiar path

One 70-year-old voter

Polling stations for the vote – which also elects regional leaders in some areas – opened at 8 am across the country’s 11 time zones. For the first time residents of the Russia-annexed Black Sea peninsula of Crimea are among the roughly 110 million voters eligible to cast their ballots for the 450-seat Duma. “I call on you to come to polling stations, to vote, to express your position,” Mr Putin said in a final appeal to voters last week. “Make your choice, vote for Russia.” But many appeared turned off by a tepid campaign, described as one of the most boring in history and suggesting voter turnout would be low.

I created United Russia as a party, so there is no commentary needed here

President Vladimir Putin