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Chechen Voting Begins

Grozny, Russia, June 14 (RFE/RL) -- Chechens have begun voting for a republican parliament and Russian President today, in elections opposed by separatists who regard Chechnya as an independent state.

Deputy Electoral Commission Chairman Yakob Sabirov said there have been some threats but, in his words, "so far no violence."

Separatist forces in the break-away republic have vowed to block the balloting, which they view as illegal.

A senior official (unnamed) from the Chechen government electoral commission told the Reuters news agency that demonstrations against balloting were under way in the rebel strongholds of Gudermes and Shali. In the regional capital, Grozny, Itar-Tass reports an "unusual calm."

Two ballots, for the upper and lower houses of the Chechen parliament, reportedly listed a total of 37 candidates. A third ballot gave the ten men running for Russian President.

The voting in Chechnya is scheduled to last until June 16, the day Russians go to the polls.