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    PUTIN: U.S. STATEMENTS ON RUSSIAN ELECTIONS STEM FROM U.S. POLITICAL PROCESSES

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    MOSCOW, March 15, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said that statements by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice about Russia's elections are a result of internal political processes in the United States.

    Reporters asked the Mr. Putin to comment on these statements at a meeting at his campaign headquarters last night.

    Mr. Putin began by saying that he has "very good relations" with Mr. Powell and Ms. Rice. He also emphasized that the Kremlin knew "how the U.S. internal political situation was developing ... We know the present distribution of political forces and believe that this is largely a result of these political circumstances."

    "Secondly, we take into account all of the critical remarks ... and will not ignore them but analyze them ... and make the relevant conclusions," Mr. Putin said.

    "Thirdly, I think nobody has the right to think that if they criticise others, they cannot be criticised themselves. Here in Russia there is a saying which you probably know because you speak Russian so well," Mr. Putin said to a foreign reporter who asked the question.

    Mr. Putin then said a Russian proverb equivalent to the English saying "the pot calling the kettle black."

    He continued, "many countries with the so-called developed democracy have many problems with this very democracy, including in election procedures. Nearly four years ago, for one, we were all surprised to see the American election system fail," Mr. Putin recalled.

    "So I hope that they will not only criticize us but also make their own conclusions and improve their democratic procedures. On the whole, I think that it would be useful for us to point out each others' faults in a friendly way, and this, in my opinion, should not result in a confrontation but in the perfection of our democratic systems and the election procedure," said Mr. Putin.

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