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Thousands of Russians vote in Serbia, Montenegro, many say they oppose Putin

BELGRADE/PODGORICA (Reuters) - Thousands of Russian citizens in Serbia and Montenegro voted on Sunday in their home nation's presidential election, with many saying it was a symbolic gesture that would not impact President Vladimir Putin's bid for another six-year term.

The voters, mostly young and anti-Putin, waited in a long line to cast ballots at the Russian school in the Serbian capital Belgrade.

"There is no election, we know who is going to win, we even know the result, he is going to draw himself over 80%," said Peter Nikitin, an anti-war activist. "There is no expectation, this government does not depend on how people vote."

Some people carried banners reading "Putin Killer" and "No to war in Ukraine".

The late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died suddenly in an Arctic penal colony in February, had asked his supporters in Russia and abroad to come to the polls at midday on Sunday and either spoil their ballots, or to vote for one of the three opposition candidates permitted to run.

"I think we all know the result," said a man who gave his first name, Dimitri. "But we are doing what we can."

Rough estimates put the number of Russians in Serbia at close to 100,000, with most of them arriving after Russia invaded Ukraine two years ago.

In Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, where thousands more Russians have arrived since the war began, Ukrainian flags were drawn on the pavement in front of the Russian embassy.

Putin, 71 and in power for more than two decades, is certain to win another six-year term in the election.

"I don't agree with results of this election because I know that Putin will be president in next term," said a woman who gave her name as Katja. "As a citizen of Russia I don't accept the results."

(Reporting by Branko Filipovi in Belgrade and Stevo Vasiljevic in Podgorica, writing by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Ros Russell)