INTRO: Millions of Russians are voting Sunday for a
new president, with Acting President and former KGB
operative Vladimir Putin the most likely winner.
Moscow correspondent Eve Conant reports the question
is whether Acting President Putin will win in a first
round victory, or if he'll face Communist challenger
Gennady Zyuganov in a run-off.
TEXT: Security is tight across the country as millions
of Russians in 11 time zones vote for a new president.
The country's Acting President Vladimir Putin, with
his promises to revive the economy and restore law and
order, is expected to emerge the victor. His basic
slogan is "a decent life" for Russians.
Mr. Putin has promised to tackle crime and corruption,
raise wages and pensions, and create a stronger, more
centralized government. Voters like pensioner Galina
Yefimovna were already appearing at polling stations
///ACT YEFIMOVNA IN RUSSIAN IN FULL AND FADE UNDER///
"I will vote for Vladimir Putin. He is our hope for
Russia's renaissance." She says, "he pronounces the
word `Russia' with pride-as a patriot I hope that with
him, we will have a better future."
Few Russians doubt Mr. Putin will become their next
president, but it is unclear whether he will gain more
than 50-percent of the vote necessary to win outright.
If he fails to win the necessary majority, Mr. Putin
would most likely face communist challenger Gennady
Zyuganov in a second round mid-April.
///OPT/// Russia's election is declared valid if more
than 50-percent of eligible voters come to the polls.
Some analysts have speculated there could be low voter
turnout since most Russians say they assume Mr. Putin
will win, with or without their vote.
///ACT MAN IN RUSSIAN IN FULL AND FADE UNDER///
One man says, "I won't vote for Mr. Putin, but he will
win anyway. My vote doesn't matter." ///END OPT///
The 47-year old Mr. Putin, a former KGB spy, was
plucked from obscurity when President Boris Yeltsin
handpicked him to become Prime Minister and then
Acting President. Mr. Putin won widespread popularity
with his handling of Moscow's military offensive in
Chechnya and is viewed as a tough, no nonsense leader
by his supporters.
/// OPT/// But as he cast his vote Sunday, reporters
asked Mr. Putin why he had failed to end the war in
Chechnya before the elections. Russia's Interfax news
agency reports hundreds of Chechen rebels have seized
the Russian-controlled eastern village of Nozhai Yurt.
The news agency quotes Mr. Putin as saying "we will
used all forces and means necessary against those who
Mr. Putin on Sunday looked confident as he exited the
///ACT PUTIN IN RUSSIAN IN FULL AND FADE UNDER///
He says, "I will go the countryside now and rest.
Tomorrow is a hard day and I must go to work. Of
course I am feeling confident, otherwise I would not
have done this."
/// OPT/// ///ACT BORIS AFANASYEV IN RUSSIAN IN FULL
AND FADE UNDER///
Pensioner Boris Afanasyev says "Vladimir Putin is a
dark horse, we don't know him at all and he has yet to
reveal his nature. And that is exactly the reason why
I'll vote for him. I know all the other candidates and
they don't keep their promises."
Mr. Putin has been careful to distance himself from
the Yeltsin regime, which many Russians remember as
one of corruption and painful and poorly-conducted
Expected to place second and third are Communist
candidate Gennady Zyuganov and liberal reformer
Grigory Yavlinsky. Mr. Zyuganov told reporters Sunday
he had sent thousands of observers to polling stations
to monitor for election abuses.
///OPT/// One voter who would only give her first
name, Tatyana says she will vote for the communists
and that she is afraid of Mr. Putin.
///ACT TATYANA IN RUSSIAN IN FULL AND FADE UNDER///
"I don't like his cold eyes," she says. "And I don't
like that he used to work for the secret services,
those people are cold and merciless."///END OPT///
Former President Boris Yeltsin also came to the polls
Sunday. As he cast his vote to elect a new president
Mr. Yeltsin said he believed reforms would continue.
///ACT YELTSIN IN RUSSIAN IN FULL AND FADE UNDER///
He says, "everyone expects some changes, but I am sure
the main course of reforms will remain."
He declined to say whom he had voted for. But Russians
know that Mr. Putin is President Yeltsin's personal
choice to succeed him to lead Russia for the next four
26-Mar-2000 04:44 AM EDT (26-Mar-2000 0944 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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