The ruling United Russia party looks set for an array of local election wins but is also on course for some setbacks as stricken Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny's supporters made rare gains in city politics in Siberia.
The local elections have been closely watched for signs of protest voting against the ruling party that backs President Vladimir Putin amid frustrations over years of falling wages and the government's handling of the pandemic.
The votes also followed the suspected poisoning by a rare nerve agent of opposition politician Navalny who had promoted a tactical voting strategy to hurt United Russia and fielded dozens of candidates for city councils in Siberia.
Official early results on Sunday showed pro-Kremlin politicians backed by Putin coasting to landslide wins to serve as the governors of the regions of Komi, Tatarstan, Kamchatka and more than a dozen others. Votes were still being counted.
But Navalny's supporters scored rare victories in city council votes in Novosibirsk, Russia's third city by population, and the student town of Tomsk where United Russia, which dominates regional power, appeared to have lost its council majority.
With Navalny sidelined by the suspected poisoning, his allies pressed ahead with his "smart voting" strategy, naming more than a thousand politicians they thought were well placed to beat ruling party candidates and urging Russians to vote for them.
The independent Golos watchdog said ahead of the elections that many opposition candidates had been barred from competing, including several from the Communist party that has seats in parliament and often backs Putin on key policies.
The watchdog also criticised a move to stretch voting out over three days, which it said made potential election fraud harder to catch for monitors.
Australian Associated Press