A man votes at a polling station in the Kostroma region's gubernatorial election Sunday. Photo: Vladimir Smirnov/TASS via Getty Images
Russians were voting Sunday in local elections seen as a test in the popularity of President Vladimir Putin and the ruling United Russia party that supports him ahead of next year's parliamentary elections.
Why it matters: The polls come weeks after Russian opposition leader and Putin critic Alexei Navalny was found to be poisoned with nerve agent Novichok — a calling card of the Russian security services. Navalny had backed United Russia's "key challengers" and was promoting a tactical "smart voting" system before he fell ill, the BBC notes.
- Independent watchdogs who weren't allowed to observe a constitutional referendum that could see Putin stay in power for 16 more years were not invited to monitor the polls, per Radio Free Europe.
- Russia denies that any crime took place.