`I have voted for those who love my country'

RUSSIAN FLAGS fluttered in Samotechny Lane yesterday, as residents of my Moscow neighbourhood walked to vote in elections for a new State Duma, writes Helen Womack.

Voters emerging from the polling station in school number 1275 tended to divide into two kinds. Those who were prepared to be open with a foreign journalist had generally voted for Western-leaning liberal parties. Others were more cryptic, like the old man in the wolf-skin hat, who said: "I have voted for those who love Russia as much as you love England. We were allies during the Second World War but now it turns out that good old England does not support Russia."

He was affronted by Western criticism of Moscow's military action in Chechnya. His comment suggested he had voted for the new Unity Party, endorsed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, although a "patriotic" vote could also be for the Communist Party.

An out and out Kremlin opponent is likely to vote Communist but stereotypes can be misleading. Not all Communist supporters are elderly. Zalina, a freelance journalist in her thirties, said she had voted for a nationalist politician linked to the Communists because herpriest had advised her to do so.

And not all old age pensioners are Communists: Galina Alexeyevna, reduced by Boris Yeltsin's reforms to such poverty that she eats only bread, had voted for the pro-Kremlin party, Unity.

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