Russia holds a presidential election on Sunday. Following are key facts about how it will happen:
THE CANDIDATES: The candidates are Vladimir Putin, the prime minister; Gennady Zyuganov, the Communist Party leader; Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a nationalist who leads the Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR); Mikhail Prokhorov, a billionaire tycoon; and Sergei Mironov, a leader of the Just Russia party and a former speaker of the upper house of parliament.
THE VOTE: Voters will tick a box on the ballot paper next to the name of one candidate. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the votes cast, the election will be decided by a run-off between the two top candidates later in March. The new president will be inaugurated in early May.
THE VOTERS: Russian citizens aged 18 or older have the right to vote unless they are in jail or have been deemed incompetent by a court. There are about 109 million eligible voters.
There are about 95,000 polling stations in Russia, and Russians can vote in most countries abroad. Early voting by Russians in remote areas, such as by sailors in the navy and reindeer herders, began in mid-February.
THE TIMING: Voting on Sunday takes place from 8 am to 8 pm local time across Russia, which spans 10 time zones. The first polling stations open in the Far East at midnight Moscow time (2000 GMT) on Saturday and the last close in Kaliningrad, its westernmost territory, at 1700 GMT on Sunday. Results will start trickling in as soon as the last stations close.
THE PRESIDENT: The president is Russia's most powerful leader under the constitution, is the commander-in-chief of Russia's armed forces and is responsible for foreign policy and international treaties. The president appoints a prime minister with the consent of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament.
Under legislation adopted since the last election in 2008, the term of the president will be six years, instead of four. The constitution limits individuals to two consecutive terms as president, but a two-term president can run again after a hiatus, as Putin is doing.