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A municipal worker passes a wall covered with election posters in Grozny before the poll (AFP)
29 November 2005 -- The European Union has hailed weekend parliamentary elections in Chechnya as a step forward for democracy in the Russian republic.
Partial results show pro-Kremlin forces leading the polls, which separatist rebels called a charade.
The EU, despite past criticism over Russia's alleged atrocities in Chechnya, was more upbeat.
A statement released today by current EU president Britain called the polls "an important step towards broader representation of a range of views in Chechen society."
It also urged Moscow to investigate any reports of irregularities, noting that some Russian officials said the polls were not perfect.
Officials declared the Unified Russia party ahead yesterday as counting continued. That suggests parliament will be packed with loyalists of Ramzan Kadyrov -- the deputy prime minister and de facto ruler of the region.