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Putin Welcomes Results of Chechnya Referendum; Separatists Call it  'Farce'


Russian President Vladimir Putin said the people of Chechnya, by voting in favor of a constitutional referendum on Sunday, have voted in favor of peace. Mr. Putin spoke after partial results released Monday indicated that more than 95 percent of voters approved the new constitution.

Meeting cabinet ministers in Moscow Monday, President Putin hailed Sunday's constitutional referendum for Chechnya as a success. And while he said the outcome of the referendum was expected, Mr. Putin said the figures exceeded even the most optimistic expectations.

According to partial results, Russian electoral officials say that more than 95 percent of the nearly half-million eligible voters approved the new constitution.

The Russian president said Sunday's vote brings to an end the last serious problem Russia faced regarding the country's territorial integrity. He also said the referendum shows that the people of Chechnya, in his words, "have opted for peace and development together with Russia."

However, Chechen separatists opposed to the referendum described Sunday's poll as a "political farce," and they said it had failed totally.

Rebel separatists had vowed to disrupt the vote, but there were no major reports of unrest Sunday.

Concerns about security kept away some observer organizations. But one member of a mission sent by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the referendum was not without shortcomings. However, no international group has moved to declare the vote invalid. Final official results are due on Wednesday.

Russian troops exercise nominal control over Chechnya, but have thus far failed to stamp out armed resistance.

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