Russians to vote: some want change, but Putin still a cert to win

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Russia prepares to re-elect Vladimir Putin
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Russia prepares to re-elect Vladimir Putin
Veronika Baikova, 41, Russian citizen who plans to boycott the upcoming presidential election, poses for a picture as she visits her relatives in the village of Yukhovichi, Belarus, February 7, 2018. "Me and my friends will not go to the polling station - we don't believe in this election," said Baikova. "But if I go to the polls, I will vote against everyone and especially against Putin. His policies have not given us anything good over the years". REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko 
Vasily Slonov, 48, artist and supporter of presidential candidate Pavel Grudinin, poses for a picture inside his workshop in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, February 8, 2018. "I don't think that this will be Putin's final term in office. In fact I see a sort of messianic energy in Putin," said Slonov. "He?s not just any other person, but something of an instrument in God's hands. He's not simply a politician." REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin 
Natalia Dementieva, 44, an accountant who is currently unemployed and supporter of presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak, poses for a picture in Moscow, Russia, January 14, 2018. "She speaks the truth, openly. She doesn't lie. She raises issues which are taboo under our government. For example, Crimea. Which means she's not afraid," said Dementieva. "The idea that things have improved, I'm not seeing it. Things have gotten worse. They have started to control what people think even more than during the Communist era. People are afraid again... Ksenia is a politician of the future." REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov 
Yulia Dyuzheva, 22, student and supervisor of the "SUPERPUTIN" exhibition and supporter of presidential candidate Vladimir Putin, poses for a picture in Moscow, Russia, January 14, 2018. "I'd draw your attention to the colossal support of young people for the current government. As a representative of the younger generation, I can say that for us, young Russians, all the doors are open. Everyone is able to grab the opportunities presented and make the most of themselves, in whatever town or region," said Dyuzheva. "For me, Russia's current leader is taking the country down a very rational path, a path based on justice, openness, one which places a stress on values and traditions, and takes a very clear position on the global stage." REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov 
Andrei Vorontsov, 42, ataman of a local Cossack society and supporter of presidential candidate Vladimir Putin, poses for a picture in Mikhaylovsk town in Stavropol Region, Russia, February 21, 2018. "It's hard to say what the future will look like," said Vorontsov. "The way I see it, people can make assumptions, but it's God that decides. The way He rules it, that's how things will be." REUTERS/Eduard Korniyenko 
Alexander Reshetnyak, 42, Cossack ataman and supporter of presidential candidate Vladimir Putin, poses for a picture in Stavropol, Russia, February 16, 2018. "Of course, among the candidates right now, in my opinion no one can compete with our current president," said Reshetnyak. "There's no alternative. So yes, maybe these are elections without a genuine choice." REUTERS/Eduard Korniyenko 
Tanzurun Darisyu, 51, supporter of presidential candidate Vladimir Putin and head of a private farm located in Kara-Charyaa area in the south of Kyzyl town, the administrative centre of the Republic of Tyva (Tuva region), poses for a picture inside her yurt in Southern Siberia, Russia, February 14, 2018. "We, the Arat people, farmers, need to be able to be confident about what tomorrow will look like. We need this in order to expand and develop our farmsteads." said Darisyu. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin 
Anastasia Shevchenko, 38, head of the election campaign team for presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak, poses for a picture in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, February 13, 2018. "I want change, of course. First of all, in how this country is run. I hope that something will change. That's why I completely support my candidate's programme," said Shevchenko. "But at the same time, I completely understand that these elections don't decide anything. I just want new people in our politics." REUTERS/Sergey Pivovarov 
Andrei Lukinykh, 46, engineer and supporter of presidential candidate Vladimir Putin, poses for a picture in Yevpatoriya, Crimea, February 20, 2018. "I am going to vote, because I want stability. As the saying goes, you don't change your horses when crossing a river (at a turning point, during a difficult time)," said Lukinykh. "Unlike the others, my candidate can provide the stability that's needed." REUTERS/Pavel Rebrov 
Vitaly Bespalov, 26, journalist and supporter of presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak, poses for a picture, showing a tattoo depicting Sobchak on his arm, in St. Petersburg, Russia, February 14, 2018. "I am 26. Eighteen of those years, all of my conscious life, I have lived under a single president," said Bespalov. "I have been waiting too long for change." REUTERS/Anton Vaganov
Alexei Gruk, 45, mechanic and supporter of presidential candidate Pavel Grudinin, poses for a picture in St. Petersburg, Russia, January 31, 2018. "The most important thing for me is that our foreign policy stays the same," said Gruk. "To hell with the sanctions? So what if they don?t bring foreign stuff here anymore? As if that means we have to give up. I don't care." REUTERS/Anton Vaganov
Marina Kalinichenko, 54, a maths teacher and supporter of presidential candidate Vladimir Putin, poses for a picture in Yevpatoriya, Crimea, February 21, 2018. "As Mark Twain said, 'if voting made a difference, they wouldn't let us do it'. I really do support my candidate, but I also realise that it's the oligarchs that truly decide, who becomes president." said Kalinichenko. REUTERS/Pavel Rebrov 
Maxim Gubsky, 21, student and supporter of presidential candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky, poses for a picture in Stavropol, Russia, February 20, 2018. "I don't expect Putin to change things, and history proves this to be true," said Gubsky. "Little has changed over the past twenty years... to see progress in my life, we need a new president, new ambitions and new decisions." REUTERS/Eduard Korniyenko 
Svyatoslav Lomakin, 19, student and supporter of presidential candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky, poses for a picture in Tula, Russia, January 26, 2018. "There's something of a shift, but I want real changes, which will improve our lives," said Lomakin. "I want there to be more opportunities for the young, so they can really make the most of their lives." REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov 
Vitaly Zubenko, 45, lawyer and supporter of presidential candidate Grigory Yavlinsky, poses for a picture in Stavropol, Russia, February 19, 2018. "When the people in power don't change, it's the foundation for corruption, it's what corruption needs to remain undefeated," said Zubenko. "We see that for the past four years, real incomes have been falling. A few people might have seen things improve, but overall, the population, the country, business, entrepreneurs, all economic structures, they're just about surviving. Things are getting worse and worse, unfortunately... We have to change the constitution, so that power never again finds itself in the hands of a single person." REUTERS/Eduard Korniyenko 
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MOSCOW, March 12 (Reuters) - Most Russians intending to vote for Vladimir Putin in Sunday's election say stability is at the root of their faith in their candidate - though many young voters believe it's time for a change of leader.

Putin, 65, is expected to win a fourth term in office with 69 percent of the vote, according to the latest survey by a state-run pollster.

Reuters correspondents and photographers who traveled around the country talking to voters ahead of the March 18 election found nothing to contradict expectation of an emphatic Putin victory.

In Crimea, participating in a Russian presidential election for the first time since the territory was annexed from Ukraine in 2014, engineer Andrei Lukinykh said Putin was the only candidate who could provide stability in tough times.

"As the saying goes, you don't change your horses mid-stream. Unlike the others, my candidate can provide the stability that's needed," Lukinykh said.

For Muscovite student Yulia Dyuzheva, economic progress during Putin's 17 years in office won him her vote.

"As a representative of the younger generation, I can say that for us, young Russians, all the doors are open. Everyone is able to grab the opportunities presented and make the most of themselves, in whatever town or region," Dyuzheva said.

But others believe Russia is ready for a change.

Accountant Natalia Dementieva, also from Moscow, said she was casting a vote for TV personality Ksenia Sobchak - one of seven other candidates - because she supported more freedoms.

" speaks the truth, openly. She doesn't lie. She raises issues which are taboo under our government."

"The next generation to rule this country were born between 1982 and 1987. There's a lot of them and they don't remember what it was like in the Soviet Union. So they're less afraid."

Sobchak is expected to garner 2 percent of the vote, according to a March 9 poll by the state-run Russian Public Opinion Research Centre.

That's less than the 3 percent who plan to stay at home, some of whom may be heeding opposition leader Alexei Navalny's call to boycott the vote after he was barred from being on the ballot.

From the Communist Party, wealthy farm boss Pavel Grudinin, 57, is set for a stronger showing, at 7 percent.

For Alexei Gruk, a mechanic from St Petersburg, voting for the Communist Party sends the signal that things need to change at home, but he wants Russia's foreign policy to stay the same.

"To hell with the sanctions," Gruk said. "So what if they don't bring foreign stuff here anymore? As if that means we have to give in. I don't care."

Nationalist firebrand Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a veteran lawmaker, is expected to garner 5 percent of votes, according to latest polls, while liberal economist Grigory Yavlinsky should receive 1 percent.

(Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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