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Putin To Begin Ukraine Visit

Russian President Vladimir Putin 26 October 2004 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin is due later today to start a visit to Ukraine, just five days before Ukraine's presidential election on 31 October.

The visit is to last through 28 October.

Putin has openly backed pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich over Western-leaning opposition leader Viktor Yuschenko in the election.

Putin is expected to appear in a live question-and-answer session on Ukrainian television channels tonight.

On 28 October, Putin is due to join other leaders in celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of Ukraine's World War II liberation from Nazi troops by the Soviet Army.

Amid tensions over the election between authorities and opposition supporters, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma yesterday cancelled a planned visit to Poland.