Voting underway in Russia local elections, including 4 occupied Ukraine regions

Voting has begun in gubernatorial and other local elections across Russia. Voters will elect new regional and local leaders, including the mayor of Moscow and the governors of 20 regions.

The country is also staging what it calls elections in four eastern and southern Ukrainian regions -- Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson. Russia unilaterally declared the annexation of the four regions in September last year.

Observers say Moscow is attempting to reinforce its grip on these regions as Ukraine steps up its counteroffensive.

In the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok, people headed to a polling station on their way to work on Friday morning.

A woman in her 50s said she is not satisfied with the current situation, and she hopes for stability and an improved quality of life.

A public official in his 20s said global challenges are very complicated and make people concerned. He added that it is clear regional communities need strong leaders.

The administration of President Vladimir Putin is seeking an overwhelming victory for the ruling United Russia party to provide momentum for the presidential election next March.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that Putin plans to vote in Moscow's mayoral election.

Voting will continue through Sunday, and vote counting will start immediately after polling stations close.