Elections have begun in Russia for the State Duma, which is the lower house of the Russian parliament, as well as dozens of municipal and regional bodies.
The voting, which will take about 22 hours in all of Russia’s 11 time zones, started in the far eastern region of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky at 08:00 local time on Sunday (2000 GMT Saturday).
More than 110 million registered voters are eligible to take part in the vote.
Fourteen political parties are taking part in the parliamentary elections. Elected members of the State Duma will serve a term of five years.
The United Russia (UR) Party, led by President Vladimir Putin’s long–time ally, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, has 238 (53%) of the 450 Duma seats and holds the majority in more than 80 regional parliaments.
Meanwhile, alleged voting violations have been reported in the Altai region of Siberia, where young people had allegedly cast ballots in the name of elderly people unlikely to come to polling booths.
The head of Russia’s elections commission, Ella Pamfilova, said the votes in Altai would be annulled if the allegation of vote fraud there was confirmed.
The UR Party is the most popular party in the country, ahead of the second-place Communist Party, with around a popularity of around 20 percent.
Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and up to 1,500 journalists from 154 media outlets, including 85 foreign ones, are covering the Russian elections.
The first exit polls for the ongoing polls are due on Sunday at 1800 GMT.
Meanwhile, the United States has denounced the Sunday Duma elections planned on the Crimean Peninsula, saying it “does not recognize the legitimacy, and will not recognize the outcome, of the Russian Duma elections planned for Russian-occupied Crimea.”
Crimea unified with the Russian mainland in 2014 after a referendum and its residents are set to vote in the Sunday polls in their first Russian elections.
“Our position on Crimea is clear: the peninsula remains an integral part of Ukraine,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement issued on Friday.
Ukraine, too, has said it will not recognize the results of the votes in Crimea.
The United States and its Western allies have imposed sanctions against Moscow over the Crimean unification with Russia and what they say is Russian support for pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine. Russia denies any such support and has imposed retaliatory sanctions on the West.