On March 18, Russians will vote to decide who will be their next president, with every indication that Vladimir Putin will win his fourth term.

"It is not difficult to win an election when your opponents are not actually on the ballot," says Vladimir Kara-Murza, a leading Russian opposition figure and activist, based in Washington.

"Russian authorities have deliberately disenfranchised [opposition leader Alexei Navalny] with a politically motivated court conviction," says Kara-Murza. Without Navalny and Boris Nemtsov, another key opposition figure who was murdered in 2015, Putin is now running effectively unopposed.

But some, such as Russian American journalist Vladimir Pozner, believe Putin's popularity at home cannot be ignored. "Putin has a very high percentage of support," says Pozner. "And it's not because people are stupid."

In Russia's highly controlled media environment, dissenting voices have been suppressed, however, Yevgenia Albats of The New Times - a Moscow-based magazine - says there is some freedom to criticise Putin.

"Russia is not a totalitarian state," says Albats. "They allow for some opposition voices to exist."

"Each week, on Monday and on Tuesday, I go out on Echo of Moscow [a national radio station] with an audience all across Russia and I say precisely what I consider right to say."

Editor's note: Vladimir Pozner left during the interview, choosing not to further engage in the debate.

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Source: Al Jazeera News