Kremlin Buses Russians to Polling Booths, Lays on Feasts and Festivities to Spare Putin Low Turnout Embarrassment

Opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin alleged that voters in Sunday's presidential election were being compelled to show up at polling stations in a Kremlin drive to ensure Putin's all but inevitable win is not tarnished by a low turnout.

And on social media, pictures show feasts and novelty entertainment laid on at election stations, to lure jaded voters convinced Putin's victory is a foregone conclusion.

Ivan Zhdanov, an aide to opposition leader Alexei Navalny barred from running in the race, said Navalny supporters monitoring the vote reported people being bussed to polling stations by their employers.

"We would call this the 'shuttle bus election'," Zhdanov told a briefing. "Some organizations, some buses, are bringing massive amounts of people."

Tweets from a polling station in the Moscow suburb of Korolov show a feats laid on for voters to convince them to make the journey.

Sky News reported that younger voters were offered free pop concert tickets, older voters free cancer screenings, and money was lavished on festooning polling stations in balloons and decorations.

Voters tweeted pictures of Russians dressed in novelty costumes as they cast their ballots.

Brown Bear Comes to Vote in Russian Presidential Election

— Russian Market (@russian_market) March 18, 2018

Kremlin officials privately acknowledge some voters are reluctant to show up and vote, even if they support Putin, because they believe his victory is all but assured. The officials also insisted the vote will be free and fair.

According to polls, Putin has the support of around 70 percent of voters, nearly 10 times that of his nearest challenger.

Ella Pamfilova, head of the commission organizing the vote nationwide, has said any fraud will be stamped out. She said those alleging the election was rigged were biased against Russia.

Reuters reporters at polling stations across Russia spoke to multiple voters who said they had been instructed by bosses or academic supervisors to vote. Many took photographs of themselves voting, saying they were needed as proof.

In one case, a senior election official inspecting a polling station said the photographs of voting should not be allowed, and ordered election staff there to stamp it out.