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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Stepashin Pleads for Clean Poll

Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin called on security forces Tuesday to stem extremism and to prevent criminals from overrunning this year's parliamentary elections.

Criminal groups are widely expected to support candidates they believe can advance their interests in parliament's lower house, the State Duma. The election is scheduled for December.

"The chief task of the law enforcement bodies and the government ? is to erect an effective and reliable barrier in the path of those political parties, associations, and persons that destabilize society and stir up ethnic strife," Stepashin told a meeting of the Federal Security Service, the chief successor to the KGB.

"Our chief task now is to prevent criminals, bandits and swindlers from getting into the bodies of power."

Vladimir Putin, the head of the service, said security agents would monitor campaign funds and dig up information about any irregularities, Itar-Tass reported. However, he vowed that the agency would act within the Constitution, and would not exert pressure on voters or violate human rights.

President Boris Yeltsin recently signed legislation that requires candidates to fill out declarations of income and property holdings, as well as any previous criminal convictions. The bill's authors hope the provisions will make elections more open and discourage potential candidates with shady records or a criminal past.