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Chechens Go To The Polls

29 August 2004 -- Voters in Russia's breakaway republic of Chechnya have begun casting ballots for a new president. Seven candidates are vying for the job, including frontrunner Alu Alkhanov, who is backed by the Kremlin.

Election officials say a man blew himself up today outside a polling station in the capital, Grozny, after he was approached by police. No one else was injured.

Chief electoral officer Abdul-Kerim Arsakhanov told Rossiya state television that "everything has been done to conduct normal, free, democratic elections."

Thousands of Chechen police, along with Russian federal troops, are guarding voting stations after threats by rebels to disrupt the poll.

Grozny resident Bainurbek Yekhjyaev was the first voter in the city today.

"I am for peace and stability in Chechnya. I don't want a return of those black days which Chechen people spent in caves and cellars without food and water. God give us [peace and stability] as of today," Yekhjyaev said.

The election is being held after President Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov was assassinated in May.


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