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Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to the Crimea came as a surprise
Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to the Crimea (a Ukrainian autonomy) and his meeting with Ukrainian leader Leonid Kuchma came as a surprise. Unofficial sources told Kommersant that Ukraine's Prime Minister and a presidential candidate, Viktor Yanukovich, would join them. The formal reason is the opening of a ferry route between Russia's Krasnodar territory and the Crimea. After the results of the first round of the elections were declared, it became clear that the pro-Russian Mr. Yanukovich might lose the election. Now Moscow's priority is to mobile the pro-Russian electorate in the second round, the newspaper reports. Gleb Pavlovsky, one of the leading ideologists of Mr. Yanukovich's election campaign, has noted, "In the first round, 4% of the vote may have been rigged in favor of Yushchenko." He referred to opinion polls conducted by the Public Opinion Fund on November 2-7 when 36% supported Mr. Yanukovich and only 33% - Mr. Yushchenko (the official results of the voting were 39.87% for Mr. Yushchenko and 39.32% for Mr. Yanukovich). According to the newspaper, during their Crimean visit, the Russian and Ukrainian presidents will receive a proposal to make efforts to increase voters' activity in those regions (primarily in the east) that sympathize with Mr. Yanukovich. Kremlin experts claim that since only 60% of voters went to the polls in the first round, Mr. Yanukovich has some substantial potential if more people come to vote in the run-off. Mr. Yushchenko, they continue, is in a worse position: only 20% of voters did not cast their votes in the western regions of Ukraine, where he won an overwhelming majority. To motivate Mr. Yanukovich's electorate, Russia will advise using Russian-speaking organizations and communities of Ukraine, including moves to step up work with the Russian-speaking diaspora in Trans-Karpatia, Mr. Yushchenko's electoral stronghold. This requires, the newspaper continues, a series of measures in the days remaining before the second round, in particular, adopting laws to raise the status of the Russian language
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