https://www.bbc.com-image source, Reuters
image caption Votes are counted after polling stations closed on Sunday evening
President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party looks set for a majority in the country’s parliamentary election, after a vote dogged by allegations of fraud.
An exit poll predicted a resounding victory for the ruling party.
The Kremlin’s most vocal critics were barred from running in the election, and there have been numerous reports of ballot stuffing and forced voting.
The election commission rejected the claims.
Voters were electing 450 MPs for the Duma (parliament) in Moscow. A total of 14 parties took part in the vote.
In its initial set of results, the commission said that with 50% of votes counted, United Russia had received more than 46%, followed by the Communist Party with 21%.
United Russia claimed victory a few hours after the polls closed on Sunday evening.
A state television broadcast showed a senior United Russia official, Andrei Turchak, congratulating a crowd of supporters in Moscow on what he described as a clean and honest victory.
The partial results show that despite Mr Putin’s party easily retaining its majority in parliament, it lost around one-fifth of its support. In 2016, the party won 54% of the vote.
The Communists saw their support grow by 8%.
Concerns over living standards and allegations of corruption from jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny have likely affected support for Mr Putin’s party.
But he remains popular with many Russians who credit him with standing up to the West and restoring national pride.
Russia’s marathon election has ended. But even before the first ballots were cast, it didn’t look like a fair election.
Many opposition politicians and activists had been barred from the ballot. First and foremost, supporters of the jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
The coronavirus pandemic was the official reason for spreading voting over three days. But critics say the extended poll lacks transparency and is open to abuse.
Reports of voting irregularities have been coming in from across Russia.
The head of the election commission, however, said the criticism was part of “a planned, deliberate campaign, well financed from abroad”. It’s a sign of things to come. This is how Moscow will react to any international criticism of the election: by pointing a finger at the West and claiming it’s all part of a foreign conspiracy to discredit Russia.
The election saw a number of cities introduce electronic voting.
For the first time since 1993, election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were not present due to limitations imposed by Russian authorities.
As of Sunday evening, independent vote monitoring group Golos – which the Russian authorities have branded “a foreign agent” – said it had tracked more than 4,500 reports of voting violations.
Russia’s interior ministry meanwhile told reporters that it had not registered any “significant violations”.
During the election, long queues were seen outside some polling stations on videos published on social media.
Interfax news agency reported that this was especially the case outside police stations. The Kremlin spokesman rejected claims that it was an indication of people being put under pressure to vote.
But Golos said it had received “numerous messages” from people who said they were being forced by their employers to vote, as well as allegations of electoral fraud.
In parts of east Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists, residents with Russian citizenship were allowed to vote, with some crossing the border to visit Russian polling stations.
There has also been anger after a Smart Voting app devised by jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was removed from Apple and Google stores on the day that Russians started voting.
Russian authorities had threatened the two companies with big fines if they refused to drop the app, which told users who could unseat ruling party candidates.
Navalny ally Leonid Volkov accused the tech giants of having “caved under the Kremlin’s blackmail”.