Medvedev to Take Over for Putin (Exit Poll)
Update: Dmitry Medvedev has won, with just over 70% of the vote, according to exit polls. the official result will be announced tomorrow by the Central Election Commission.
Update: Turnout is high, induced by giveaways or orders from the boss.
"There can't be a small turnout when people are forced to go to the polls," said Golos deputy director Grigory Melkonyan, quoted by the AFP news agency.
But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the turnout showed that many people "are choosing to vote for a continuation of the changes" made by Mr Putin.
Russia votes today, but few seem to believe that their vote will actually change anything. Vladimir Putin appears to be retaining power by allowing an ally to occupy his desk.
Polling stations in the Far East opened at 2000 GMT Saturday, in a vote pitting first deputy prime minister Dmitry Medvedev against three challengers.
Mr Medvedev, the Kremlin's preferred candidate, has promised to make Mr Putin his prime minister.
Observers say the poll's outcome is not in doubt and the only question is the turnout in favour of Mr Medvedev.
The main European election monitoring body - the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) - decided not to send a delegation.
It said the Russian authorities were planning to impose unacceptable restrictions on its work. The OSCE complained about Russian limits on the number of observers and on the duration of their stay.
Opinion polls predicted a big win for Dmitri Medvedev, a 42-year-old lawyer from St. Petersburg and Kremlin official, which many believe will ensure that Putin stays on as the power behind the throne.
The focus will be on the turnout, because a low one could take the shine off Medvedev's victory. Analysts said the Kremlin wants to ensure a turnout of at least 70 percent.
Putin is barred by term limits from running again but many Russians credit him for eight years of economic growth which has transformed cities such Moscow into a mass of glitzy shops, smart cafes and costly sushi bars.
But in the nation's darkest, poverty-stricken corners -- such as Anino just outside the capital -- a lot of people feel disenchanted and abandoned, blaming the Kremlin for its failure to let some of the booming oil wealth trickle down to the poor.
"I am tired of living like this. I am tired of thinking that being able to afford food for my child is an achievement," said Alla Semyonova, a 66-year-old former oil geologist.