Residents of eastern Ukraine vote on extending Putin's rule

Putin Calls on Russians to Take Part in Vote on Constitutional Amendments                Sputnik  Aleksei Nikolsky

Russian Federation holds on Wednesday the main voting day on the biggest package of constitutional changes since 1993.

Russians are heading to the polls on the last day of voting on amendments to the country's constitution.

July 1 is the final day of voting on the package, although polls have been open since June 25 - an unprecedented weeklong vote authorities said was aimed to reduce crowds amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"We are going to vote for the country where we want to live, with cutting-edge education and healthcare, a reliable system of social protection and an effective government accountable to the people", Putin said, adding that it is the vote for a country, which the citizens would like to pass on to their children and grandchildren.

Among other things, the proposed amendments would transfer more power to Russia's two houses of parliament, as well as potentially allow Vladimir Putin to run for the presidency two more times.

State exit polls have suggested the changes will be backed by over two-thirds of voters, who have been encouraged to vote with prize draws offering flats and an ad campaign highlighting other amendments created to appeal to the populace. His approval rating sank to a low of 59 percent during the spring, according to the independent Levada Center polling agency.

Russian election monitors point out that bringing residents of eastern Ukraine into Russia to vote could make it easier to rig the vote.

The Kremlin's critics say the vote is a sham and they fear it will be rigged.

Critics have shared photographs of makeshift polling stations set up in apartment stairwells, courtyards and in the boot of a parked auto.

The opposition Communist Party, which has advised supporters to vote "no" to the changes, has complained of irregularities at two Moscow polling stations, where it said the number of those registered to vote at home was 10 times higher than normal.

The pollster said 76 percent of those who had so far voted had backed the reforms and that 23.6 percent of people who agreed to be polled after voting said they had voted against.

Putin has said he wants a clean vote, something election officials have pledged to deliver.

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