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Polls open in Russian presidential election
Polls open in elec tion expected to return Putin to Russian presidency
By The Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) ' Polling stations have opened across Russia's vast expanse for the presidential election widely expected to return Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin.

Sunday's election comes in the wake of a series of massive protest rallies sparked by alleged fraud in December's parliamentary elections. Although the protests were the largest public show of discontent in post-Soviet Russia, opinion polls show Putin far ahead of four other candidates, with enough support to easily win in the first round.

Since the December ballot, Russia's more than 90,000 voting stations have been fitted out with web cameras to monitor voting and ballot counting. Tens of thousands of people have volunteered to be election observers.

Putin was president in 2000-2008, but has spent the past four years as prime minister because of a constitutional limit of two consecutive terms for a president.

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