Russian authorities and their Chechen appointees in Grozny opened the balloting December 14, three days ahead of schedule, and closed it at 15:00 on the officially scheduled election day, December 17. They claimed an aggregate turnout of 80 to 90 percent for the four days. Election regulations were changed December 12, lowering the minimum required voter turnout to 25 percent and requiring a simple majority of that 25 percent to elect the administrative head of Chechnya. Zavgayev was declared the winner on the first day.
According to Russian authorities, most voters cast ballots in Chechnya’s second-largest city, Gudermes, amid fighting between Russian forces and Chechen resistance, and in the district center Urus-Martan, seized by the resistance December 14. Correspondents, however, saw very little evidence of voting even in the capital Grozny, where most polling stations remained closed. Some ballots in Grozny and other localities were cast at "mobile" polling stations, that is, ballot boxes carried door to door by officials under armed escort.
Fighting continued inside Gudermes today for the fifth straight day while Russian artillery shelled resistance positions from outside the city. Although official reports — not updated since December 15 — admit to 22 soldiers killed, 41 injured, and 38 missing in action in Gudermes since December 14, wounded Russian soldiers evacuated from the city told Russian and foreign reporters that official figures substantially understated Russian casualties. Clashes involving small Russian casualties were also reported from other locations. (10)
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