Russians voted on Sunday in some of the most closely observed regional elections in years, after the exclusion of many opposition candidates triggered huge protests in the capital.

The protests began in mid-July after the Central Election Commission refused to register large numbers of candidates, saying they had failed to collect enough signatures from genuine backers — a response that President Vladimir Putin endorsed on Sunday after casting his ballot.

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Those excluded, including allies of prominent opposition politician Alexei Navalny, have denounced the move as a ruse designed to stop them winning seats.

In all, elections are taking place in 85 Russian regions, but the main focus is on Moscow.