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Putin Officially Wins Russian Presidential Election

Moscow, 15 March 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Vladimir Putin is the official winner of Russia's presidential election.

The head of the Central Election Commission, Aleksandr Veshnyakov, said today that with more than 99 percent of votes counted, Putin has won just over 71 percent.

His closest challenger, Communist candidate Nikolai Kharitonov, was far behind with less than 14 percent.

Election officials said turnout was more than 64 percent.

Putin was elected in 2000 with over 52 percent of the vote and had been widely expected to win a second presidential term.

Speaking early today, he pledged to work to maintain Russian economic growth and defend democratic principles, including freedom of the media, during his second term.

"I want to assure you and I promise you that I will work during the next four years at the same pace [as during my first term]. I will do everything in my power so that the government works with equal effectiveness. I promise you that all of our people's democratic accomplishments will of course be secured and guaranteed," Putin said.

There were no reports of serious breaches of electoral laws during the voting, but Western observers have faulted Russian media, particularly state-run television, for unfairly giving too little coverage to Putin's opponents during the election campaign.

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