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    * IRAQ * RUSSIA * ELECTIONS * BALLOT PAPERS *

    RUSSIAN CITIZENS VOTE IN IRAQ BY BALLOT PAPERS PRINTED ON THE SPOT

    BAGHDAD, MARCH 12 (RIA Novosti) - There were not enough ballots for all the Russians in Iraq who wished to vote at Russian presidential elections and therefore quite a number of them was printed on the spot.

    "We foresaw such a development," said Alexei Solomatin, a counselor at the Russian embassy in Iraq, "and applied beforehand to the foreign ministry electoral group to give us permission to produce some additional ballots." More than 300 Russian citizens have already cast their votes in Iraq while the initial number of ballots dispatched from Moscow was merely 290.

    Under the law on the election of president of the Russian Federation, "some exclusive cases allow for the manufacture of ballot papers by district electoral commissions set up beyond the confines of the Russian Federation." Alexei Solomatin made it clear that the ballots sent from Moscow proved to be not enough because a large group of Russian experts to be engaged in the reconstruction of one of the thermal power stations in the Iraqi capital arrived in Baghdad on March 8.

    "With merely four days before the elections," said Solomatin, "it is next to impossible in Baghdad to get additional ballots from Moscow because of the absence of air communication - it was therefore decided to produce these ballots on the spot." Among the Russian citizens who came to the polling station were those who have lived in Iraq for many years.

    "Elections are the best opportunity to feel that I am a citizen of the Russian Federation," said Yelena Antropova who has been living in Iraq for more than ten years.

    She said she and a friend of hers had come to the embassy intentionally, to get to know the date of elections. "We do not want to get cut off from our country, the more so now, in such hard times we are living through now," said Yelena.

    "The lack of security and telephone communication make us feel in isolation," she added.

    Another Russian citizen, Tamara el-Hafadji, learnt about the date of early elections, as she says, by chance. Her younger son is an interpreter at one of the Russian companies in Baghdad where he was told that the Russian citizens would vote not on Sunday, like in Moscow, but on Friday, which is a day off in Iraq.

    Tamara has been living in Iraq for over 30 years. She came to the Russian consulate with two adult sons in order to participate in voting. "We have come despite a very troublesome atmosphere in the district we live in, said Tamara. "Blasts are heard now and then. This morning, too, I heard an explosion not far from our house."

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