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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 October, 2004, 08:26 GMT 09:26 UK
Putin praises Ukraine's leader
By Helen Fawkes
BBC correspondent in Kiev

Russian president Vladimir Putin
80,000 viewers sent in questions for Mr Putin by email
Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken part in a live phone-in on Ukrainian TV, just days before the country's presidential election.

He took part in a question and answer show, which lasted for an hour.

The Russian leader praised the work of the country's present Prime Minister, Viktor Yanukovich.

The event has been criticised by the opposition as Kremlin pressure on Ukrainian voters.

The race is a battle between two men - the opposition leader and the prime minister, who is backed by the outgoing president.

In an unprecedented move, President Putin broadcast live on three national TV channels in Ukraine.

Close eye

He answered some of the 80,000 questions that had been emailed in from viewers and also took live phone calls.

Russia has made it clear it would like the prime minister to become Ukraine's next president, although Mr Putin stopped short of endorsing Mr Yanukovich.

He paid tribute to the Ukrainian government, saying it had made great economic achievements over the past year under the prime minister.

This kind of broadcast is rare for Mr Putin, and demonstrates just how closely Russia is watching the campaign, leading up to the vote on Sunday.

President Putin is officially in Kiev for the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Ukraine from Nazi occupation.

Opposition leader, Viktor Yushchenko, described the visit as "untimely".

He warned that Russia still had a powerful influence over Ukrainian politics, and could sway the outcome of the vote.

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