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Russian President Vladimir Putin, 65, has held the reins of power for 18 years, and there is little doubt that voters will propel him to another six-year term on Sunday. His grip on Russia is total, media coverage is glowing and political opposition is weak – in large part because of a state effort to disqualify and intimidate the fiercest critics of Mr. Putin.

His poll numbers sit at 70 per cent and it is a rare day that the Russian ruler is seen publicly campaigning. The omnipresent billboards and posters do the talking – while his nominal rivals (polling in the single digits) partake in some electioneering around the country.

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The billboard Putin

A pre-election banner with the image of the current president of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin on one of streets in Pskov, Russia, Monday, March 12, 2018.

Sergey Ponomarev/The Globe and Mail

Sergey Ponomarev/The Globe and Mail

Sergey Ponomarev/The Globe and Mail

Sergey Ponomarev/The Globe and Mail

Sergey Ponomarev/The Globe and Mail

Sergey Ponomarev/The Globe and Mail

The four challengers

Russian Communist Party (CPRF) presidential candidate Pavel Grudinin (C) speaks during a pre-election rally in Moscow on March 10, 2018. (Photo: MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

MLADEN ANTONOV

Candidate in the upcoming presidential election Boris Titov visits the spinning and thread factory "Krasnaya Nit'" (Red Thread) in St. Petersburg, Russia March 6, 2018. (Photo: Anton Vaganov/REUTERS)

Anton Vaganov

Ultra-conservative politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and presidential candidate, gestures as he visits a food market in Moscow on January 16, 2018. (Photo: Yuri KADOBNOV/AFP Photo)

YURI KADOBNOV

In this Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018 file photo, Russian TV host and presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak arrives at a news conference in Moscow, Russia. Sobchak has cast herself as a champion of liberal freedoms, seeking to win over some of supporters of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and others who are disenchanted with Putin's rule. (Photo: Pavel Golovkin/AP Photo)

Pavel Golovkin/The Associated Press

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