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The incumbent Russian president has cast his ballot in the presidential elections, in which he is widely expected to win a fourth term.

Asked about the percentage of votes he hopes to win, Vladimir Putin told reporters that he would be satisfied with “any that gives the right to serve as president”.

As with every election since he came to power in 2000, Putin cast his ballot at the polling station opened at the headquarters of the Russian Academy of Sciences on the busy Lenin Avenue in the Russian capital.

Earlier on Sunday, the polling stations opened in Moscow and across central Russia for the presidential elections.

Voting began in the country’s Far East at 8am on Sunday, and counting will begin on Sunday evening after stations close in Kaliningrad, Russia’s western-most region.

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

However, Russians living in Ukraine will not be allowed to participate, after the Ukrainian government barred them from visiting Moscow’s diplomatic delegations because it considers Russia to be an “aggressor” and has dismissed its elections as “illegal”.

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

Surveys show Putin, who has been in power for 18 years, is virtually guaranteed to win with at least 70 per cent of the vote, or nearly 10 times the backing of his nearest challenger.

Another term will take him to nearly a quarter century in power – a longevity among Kremlin leaders second only to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

Many voters credit Putin, a 65-year-old former KGB spy, with standing up for Russia’s interests in a hostile outside world, even though the cost is confrontation with the West.

A row with Britain over allegations the Kremlin used a nerve toxin to poison a Russian double agent in a sleepy English town – denied by Moscow – has not dented his standing.

The majority of voters see no viable alternative to Putin: he has total dominance of the political scene and the state-run television, where most people get their news, gives lavish coverage of Putin and little airtime to his rivals.

Candidate Pavel Grudinin, director of the Lenin State Farm, may get seven per cent of the votes, while Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia, could win six per cent.