Putin casts his vote for new Russian Prez

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Moscow, Mar 2 (UNI) Incumbent President Vladimir Putin cast his vote at a polling station here in today's presidential election, saying he was in a good mood.

''I am in a festive mood. When we were leaving, Lyudmila Alexandrovna (Putin's wife) noted that rain is a good sign,'' Mr Putin told reporters.

Four presidential candidates, including front-runner and Putin-backed Dmitry Medvedev, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, ultranationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Democratic Party leader Andrei Bogdanov, also voted at polling stations in the Russian capital.

Mr Medvedev was the first candidate to vote, just 90 minutes after polling stations opened in Moscow. He was accompanied by his wife Svetlana.

''I am in a good mood. Spring is here,'' Mr Medvedev said as he cast his ballot in Moscow, where rain and wet snow sprinkled the streets.

''The season has changed,'' he added.

Mr Medvedev, a 42-year-old former lawyer and loyal Kremlin aide, is expected to take over from Mr Putin, whose eight years as President have left a deep imprint on Russia.

Mr Medvedev has said he would offer Putin the premiership Observers say the polls' outcome is not in doubt and the only question is the turnout in favour of Mr Medvedev.

Russian Central Election Commission chief Vladimir Churov said the turnout was higher than in the December parliamentary election.

''Practically, in all constituent parts of the Russian Federation turnout is higher,'' he said.

Election officials earlier forecast turnout at 65-70 per cent, but critics pointed to pressure on voters, especially employees of the state-run organisations.

UNI XC SR RAI2033

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