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“The Putin regime is afraid of open competition and all the genuine opposition parties have been banned,” Solidarnost political committee member Ivan Tyutrin told The Times.

Solidarnost is part of the Parnas coalition, which brings together several well-known opposition figures, including former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and former First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov. It was denied permission to run in the elections after authorities alleged it had violated poll registration procedures.

Mr. Tyutrin also said that the polls would see “colossal falsification.”

“Governors in the regions have been ordered to guarantee a good result for United Russia,” he added, saying that they face the threat of dismissal if they fail to do so.

The main independent Russian election observer group, Golos, has reported complaints from workers and students who say they are being pressured by bosses or university staffers - themselves under pressure “from above” - to cast their votes for United Russia.

Local media reported that one employer has asked his workers to photograph their ballot papers to prove they had voted “right.”

Meanwhile, the Central Election Commission (CEC), a supposedly neutral body, has come under fire after its ad urging Russians to vote was revealed to be almost identical to United Russia’s campaign posters. The only difference is the CEC version lacks a United Russia symbol.

A CEC spokesman denied any wrongdoing.

CEC chief Vladimir Churov is a United Russia member who once said, “My first rule is that Putin is also right.” He has been accused of pressuring TV companies to ban opposition ads in the run-up to the voting.

Opposition groups plan rallies in Moscow on and after Election Day. But with 30,000 Kremlin-backed youth activists planning to set up camp in the city, the opposition’s plans to demonstrate seem as doomed as their ambitions to contest Sunday’s voting.

“It is clear by now that the results will be massively rigged by the authorities to ensure that United Russia gets on top with a massive majority,” Konstantin von Eggert wrote in a column for the state-run RIA Novosti news agency’s English language website.

“It boasts of wide-ranging support, but it has to resort to dirty tricks.”