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Putin Has Big Lead In Russian Presidential Election

Moscow, 14 March 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Polling stations in Russia's presidential election have closed and ballots in Russia's Far Eastern regions, where voting ended several hours ago, have already been partially tallied and show incumbent Vladimir Putin has a clear lead.

The head of Russia's Central Election Commission, Aleksandr Veshnyakov, told state television that initial results show President Putin with 66.5 percent of the vote. In distant second place is the Communist candidate, Nikolai Kharitonov, with just under 15 percent.

Sergei Glazev, of the Motherland Party, is in third place, with 5 percent, followed by Irina Khakamada, with just under 5 percent. Over 4 percent of voters cast ballots marked "against all candidates."

Earlier today, the Central Election Commission announced that voter turnout surpassed the required 50 percent mark for the election to be declared valid.

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