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Russia: Results Show Medvedev Wins Russian Presidency By Large Margin

Election poster of Putin and Medvedev (AFP) First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has won a landslide victory in Russia's presidential elections.

Central Election Commission Chairman Vladimir Churov said today that after 99.4 percent of all ballots have been counted, Medvedev won more than 70 percent. Medvedev was trailed by Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov with almost 18 percent, followed by populist nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky with almost 10 percent. Turnout among the country's almost 109 million voters was more than 69 percent.

Speaking at a news conference in Moscow, Medvedev said his policies would be a "direct continuation" of President Vladimir Putin's. He said he would work jointly with Putin, who is expected to become Russia's prime minister.

The election brings to an end Putin's eight years in office. Medvedev will be inaugurated as Russia's third post-Soviet president on May 7. Putin is expected to serve as prime minister and continue to wield influence on Russian politics.

Voting earlier in the day on March 2, Medvedev smiled for the cameras and said he was in a good mood, with spring just around the corner.

"Spring is here, even though it's raining, but it's already a new season, which is nice," Medvedev said.

Opposition Calls Vote A 'Farce'

Opposition politicians criticized the elections as a tightly controlled affair in which true Kremlin critics were prevented from running.

All of the candidates participating in the election are considered friendly toward the Kremlin. Independent anti-Kremlin candidates like former chess champion Garry Kasparov and former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov were, meanwhile, barred by authorities from running.

Two opposition parties, Yabloko and the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), failed to win seats in parliament in a vote late last year, and were therefore barred from nominating party members for the presidential vote.

The Kremlin's opponents also say voters have been denied a real choice because the biggest television stations slanted their coverage in Medvedev's favor.

Kasparov called the election a "farce" and he said the authorities did not have the real support of the people. "People are not filling the streets because they are afraid that things could change for the worse. And I think that's one of the main reasons why the regime is still enjoying not support but some sort of passive acceptance," Kasparov said.

Meanwhile, Marina Litvinovich, an aide to Kasparov, told RFE/RL's Russian Service that a March of Dissent rally is planned to be held in central Moscow on March 3.

"I invite [to the march] all those who are brave, who are dissatisfied, who disagree with the fact that the opinion of Russian citizens is not taken into account in this election and that there is a de facto seizure of power and an anticonstitutional coup," Litvinovich said.

Kasyanov predicted on March 2 that the Russian authorities would face an "inevitable" economic crisis, probably in the autumn.

Zyuganov, meanwhile, said he found evidence of fraud and would challenge the election results in court. "I think the country has once again been robbed and deprived of the opportunity to calmly discuss problems that have already come to a head. Neither the parliamentary nor presidential elections have solved any of the problems that the country has faced for a long time," Zyuganov said.

Zhirinovsky, for his part, said Russian voters will go to work on March 3 "with somber faces."

The main monitoring arm of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) announced earlier this month that it would not send monitors to Russia because of "severe restrictions" imposed by the Russian government.

Monitors Turned Away

The Kremlin has sought to galvanize voters because a low turnout could diminish Medvedev's victory. In Vladivostok, Russia's main gateway to the Pacific, polling stations tempted first-time voters with teddy bears and baseball caps bearing Russian flags.

Local election monitors said they were hindered at some polling stations.

Liliya Shibanova, director of Golos, an independent Russian monitoring body, said monitors were refused access to polling stations "en masse" in the southern region of Astrakhan and to a lesser extent elsewhere, while authorities have relaxed some regulations to open the way for repeat voting. Poll observers also reported cases of workers being forced to vote.

Most of the voters who spoke to RFE/RL said they voted for Medvedev.

“I voted for the only candidate, as I see it!" said one man at a polling station in Moscow.

"I think it was relatively fair, because there were four candidates to choose from. But sadly there wasn’t anyone better to vote for than Medvedev. Sorry, but how many times can you vote for Zyuganov? If they’d put forward another candidate, maybe I might have considered voting for them. As for Bogdanov, he’s a nobody. And as for that pea-brain [Zhirinovsky], excuse me, but everyone is sick and tired of him.”

Some, however, said they intentionally spoiled their ballots to protest what they saw as an undemocratic vote.

One woman in the city of Izhevsk told RFE/RL's Russian Service that she wrote in the name of actor Johnny Depp because she did not like any of the candidates on the ballot.

With additional agency reports.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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