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The Latest: Vote monitoring group warns of interference

March 15, 2018 GMT

              FILE - In this Tuesday, March 6, 2018 file photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to employees of Uralvagonzavod factory in Nizhny Tagil, Russia. President Vladimir Putin seems self-assured and confident of victory in the election on Sunday, March 18, even as the Kremlin works hard to bolster turnout to make the result as impressive as possible. Unlike the 2012 balloting when he often looked tense and nervous amid massive protests of his rule, Putin faces no such threats this time, despite an anemic economy and spiraling tensions with the West. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
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FILE - In this Tuesday, March 6, 2018 file photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to employees of Uralvagonzavod factory in Nizhny Tagil, Russia. President Vladimir Putin seems self-assured and confident of victory in the election on Sunday, March 18, even as the Kremlin works hard to bolster turnout to make the result as impressive as possible. Unlike the 2012 balloting when he often looked tense and nervous amid massive protests of his rule, Putin faces no such threats this time, despite an anemic economy and spiraling tensions with the West. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
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FILE - In this Tuesday, March 6, 2018 file photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to employees of Uralvagonzavod factory in Nizhny Tagil, Russia. President Vladimir Putin seems self-assured and confident of victory in the election on Sunday, March 18, even as the Kremlin works hard to bolster turnout to make the result as impressive as possible. Unlike the 2012 balloting when he often looked tense and nervous amid massive protests of his rule, Putin faces no such threats this time, despite an anemic economy and spiraling tensions with the West. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

MOSCOW (AP) — The Latest on the Russian presidential election taking place on Sunday, March 18 (all times local):

5:15 p.m.

A Russian election monitoring group says government authorities forced the closure of a center created to collect complaints of violations in Sunday’s presidential vote.

Roman Udot of the group Golos said in online statements Thursday that it signed a deal and paid for a call center, but the landlords rescinded the deal under pressure from government security officers.

The head of Russia’s electoral commission said she hopes Golos finds a new site. Ella Pamfilova was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying, “It is in our interest that everything works.”

Election commission representatives met Thursday with lawyers for opposition leader Alexei Navalny, whose supporters are seeking to observe the voting. Navalny himself is barred from the election, which President Vladimir Putin is expected to win overwhelmingly.

Accusations of ballot stuffing and mass voter fraud marred past elections.

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2:10 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman says a mushrooming diplomatic scandal over the poisoning of an ex-spy in Britain won’t disrupt Russia’s presidential election.

Dmitry Peskov told reporters Thursday the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal “doesn’t affect” the campaign for Sunday’s election, which he called Russia’s top priority.

Peskov strongly denied Russian responsibility in the March 4 attack.

The Russian campaign remains lackluster just three days before the vote. Putin is overwhelmingly expected to win another term after 18 years in power, riding in part on his argument that he must stand up to Western aggressors.

Opposition candidate and former TV star Ksenia Sobchak is holding a big rally Thursday, after breaking down in tears at the final televised debate Wednesday night. She was the only candidate to criticize Putin.