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Russians Vote As Yeltsin Casts His Ballot Outside Moscow

Moscow, July 3 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Boris Yeltsin unexpectedly cast his ballot outside Moscow today as voting in the presidential runoff election continued elsewhere in the country.

Yeltsin, looking stiff but speaking clearly, was shown on Russian television voting at a polling station near his dacha at Barvikha this morning. He explained his decision to vote out of the public eye by saying he had fulfilled his plan to speak with journalists by 120 percent.

Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, speaking with reporters at a polling station in Moscow where Yeltsin normally votes, said Yeltsin was fine and voted outside Moscow because it was more convenient.

Yeltsin's challenger, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, expressed confidence he would win after casting his ballot in Moscow. Asked about Yeltsin's health, Zyuganov said "The situation doesn't look good."

There have been renewed concerns about Yeltsin's health since he started cancelling engagements a week ago. But his aides say the president is just suffering from a cold.

Meanwhile Yeltsin's campaign manager, Sergei Filatov, voiced concern that today's turnout has been about 5 percent lower than in the first round of elections on June 16. A high turnout is said to favor Yeltsin.

Alexander Veshnyakov, secretary of the Central Electoral Commission, told Itar-tass that 17 percent of the electorate had voted by 2:00 Moscow time. Tass, quoting the commission, said turnout in Moscow was 26 percent by the same time.

Polls have already closed in some parts of the far east, nine time zones from Moscow. The first results are expected late this evening after polls close in the western region of Kalingrad at 9:00 tonight.