As Vladimir Putin
seeks a convincing victory in Russia's presidential election
on Sunday, to strengthen his hand in dealing with the biggest opposition protests since he rose to power 12 years ago, Russian-Israelis and Russian expats cast their votes for the next Kremlin leader.
Some 160,000 Israelis with a Russian citizenship stood in line at one of the 13 polling stations across Israel to cast their vote in Russia's presidential election.
"I love my country and I believe anyone who can - should vote," said Anna from Petah Tikva.
Putin and wife cast their vote (Photo: AP)
However some voters expressed their resentment over the voting method and its "expected outcome," as they see it. "The election fraud today will be even worse than in the Duma elections, because if Putin doesn't win in the first round it'll be a catastrophe, and he knows it," declared Lev Goberman, an exchange student from Saint Petersburg.
Goberman says he has no faith in the other candidates: Communist Gennady Zyuganov, nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, former parliamentary speaker Sergei Mironov and billionaire metals tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov.
"I've erased all of the names (from the ballot) and chose to vote against them all in an act of protest against Putin," he explained. "I believe, like most of my fellow citizens, that Putin is a thief… The other candidates are no different, that's why I voted the way I did."
Meanwhile, Opposition leaders and Russian observers say they are seeing widespread violations in elections that are expected to return Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin.
Putin, who was president in 2000-2008, is expected to easily win the Sunday election against four challengers. But if credible evidence of vote manipulation emerges, it would bolster the determination of opposition forces to continue the unprecedented wave of protests that arose in December.
Putin, who voted in Moscow with his wife Lyudmila in a rare joint public appearance, dropped his ballot paper before voting and had to pick it up. Asked by reporters whether he ruled out a runoff, he said it would "depend on the voters."
Reuters contributed to this report