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Foreign observers: serious problems in Russia vote
International observer group says 'serious problems' in Russian presidential election
By The Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) ' The head of the major international election observer mission in Russia says there were "serious problems" in the vote that returned Vladimir Putin to the presidency.

Tonino Picula said in a statement Monday that "there was no real competition and abuse of government resources ensured that the ultimate winner of the election was never in doubt."

Picula headed the short-term observer mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

A brief synopsis of the mission's findings did not address Russian independent observers' contentions that there were widespread cases of people casting multiple ballots, but said the election "process deteriorated during the vote count, which was assessed negatively in almost one-third of polling stations observed."

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

MOSCOW (AP) ' Police and troops will be out in force in the Russian capital as opposition forces plan a mass protest against the presidential elections that returned Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin.

The Monday evening demonstration on Pushkin Square will be a test of whether the opposition can maintain the momentum that brought tens of thousands of people to a series of unprecedented protests in the months before the election.

Preliminary results announced Monday showed Putin getting more than 63 percent of the vote against four challengers.

But opposition leaders and independent observers say there was widespread vote fraud. Observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe will present their findings later Monday.

The ITAR-Tass news agency cited the Interior Ministry as saying Monday that some 12,000 police and troops will be on duty to maintain order in Moscow.

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