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International Officials Criticize Standards of Russian Elections

By Steven Lee Myers

The New York Times -- MOSCOW

International election observers on Monday criticized Russia’s presidential election for falling short of basic democratic standards, even as President Vladimir V. Putin accepted congratulatory telephone calls from presidents and prime ministers of the world’s leading democracies.

The observers -- representing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe -- cited abuses of government resources, bias in the state news media and even instances of ballot stuffing on election day.

“The election process overall did not adequately reflect principles necessary for a healthy democratic election process,” the head of the observer mission, Julian Peel Yates, said at a news conference. “Essential elements of the OSCE commitments and Council of Europe standards for democratic elections, such as a vibrant political discourse and meaningful pluralism, were lacking.”

Putin swept to an entirely expected victory on Sunday, receiving 72.1 percent of the vote, after a campaign that featured overwhelming support of the incumbent from local governments and the state-controlled news media.

Nikolai M. Kharitonov, representing the Communist Party, came in a distant second with just under 14 percent, election officials said after most of the votes had been counted. The rest of the field failed to break out of single digits.

Putin, appearing at his campaign headquarters in the wee hours after the polls closed on Sunday night, gently brushed aside criticism raised earlier by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice.

President Bush called to congratulate Putin, as did Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, President Jacques Chirac of France, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan.