By Ignacio Ortega
Moscow, Jun 25 (efe-epa).- Voting began in Russia on Thursday on constitutional reforms that would allow President Vladimir Putin to serve another two terms in office.
Millions of Russians have been called to the polls amid strict measures to try and prevent the spread of Covid-19 after criticism over the decision to hold the referendum during the coronavirus pandemic.
Putin, who has been in power since 2000, said in a televised statement: “The important thing is to guarantee the free expression of popular will on a vital issue for the present and future of our country and of each of its citizens.”
Russia’s Central Election Commission extended the voting window in an attempt to counter criticism that the ballot poses a risk to public health.
Ella Pamfilova, president of the CEC, said at a press conference: “The main thing is people. The life and health of our people. For this reason, we have taken unprecedented measures of health security.”
Voting started at 8am on Thursday and polling stations will remain open until 8pm on 1 July.
“These six days are precisely for that, to avoid overcrowding,” Pamfilova added.
“All the procedures were designed to minimize physical contact as much as possible.”
Electoral commission workers have all been given protective equipment and access to polling stations has been limited while shaking hands and consuming food or drinks inside have been banned.