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US 'troubled' by conduct of Russia constitutional vote

[WASHINGTON] The United States on Thursday voiced concern over Russia's constitutional referendum, pointing to reports of voter coercion and reiterating alarm that President Vladimir Putin will be able to extend his rule.

"We are troubled by reports of Russian government efforts to manipulate the result of the recent votes on constitutional amendments, including reports of voter coercion, pressure on opponents of the amendments and restrictions of independent observers of the vote," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

The European Union also Thursday called on Russia to investigate reported vote irregularities.

Russia's Central Elections Commission announced that 77.92 per cent of voters backed the constitutional reforms that would let Mr Putin, already Russia's paramount leader for two decades, run for additional terms after his mandate ends in 2024.

"We are especially concerned with a provision in the amendments that would potentially allow President Putin to remain in power until 2036," Mr Ortagus said.

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"Around the world, as a matter of principle, the United States opposes constitutional amendments that favour incumbents or extend their terms in office, particularly in contexts where necessary conditions for free and fair democratic processes are lacking," she said.

Deputy Secretary of State Steve Biegun said on the eve of the vote that Mr Putin, along with Chinese President Xi Jinping, "seem intent on putting themselves into office for life."

AFP

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