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Presidential Election Starts In Russia

Moscow, 13 March, 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Polls have opened in Russia's eastern-most regions for an election where low turnout is seen as the only hindrance to incumbent President Vladimir Putin.

Polling stations opened at 20:00 GMT in the Kamchatka and Chukotka regions.

Six candidates are running for president, but opinion surveys routinely show Putin with an approval rating of at least 70 percent.

Central Election Commission chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov today urged voters to cast their ballots, saying the upcoming election "should be a celebration."

The election campaign has been described by some as colorless, sparking little excitement among Russia's 109 million voters. At least 50 percent of voters must cast their vote to make the polls valid. Russia's western most polling stations will close their doors tomorrow at 18:00 GMT.

For the latest on the Russian elections, go to our dedicated webpage The Russian Federation Votes 2003-04