DATE=3/24/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA / PUTIN (L) NUMBER=2-260560 BYLINE=EVE CONANT DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Russia's acting president, Vladimir Putin, has gone on national television to urge Russians to vote in presidential elections this Sunday. Moscow correspondent Eve Conant reports opinion polls show Mr. Putin has a wide edge over his opponents, though a low voter turnout could hurt his chances for a first round victory. TEXT: Acting President Vladimir Putin is widely expected to emerge the victor in Sunday's presidential elections. He would need more than 50-percent of the vote to win outright. In a televised address, however, Mr. Putin seemed more worried about the possibility that a low voter turnout could invalidate the results. ///ACT PUTIN IN RUSSIAN IN FULL AND FADE UNDER/// "The choice depends on you," he says. "I am asking only one thing - come to the polling stations and cast your ballots." By Russian law, official campaigning ends Friday. In his address, the 47-year old acting president told voters not only would they be electing a new president, but also a new commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Mr. Putin first gained public support with what many view as his decisive handling of Moscow's military offensive in Chechnya. The acting president has also widened his appeal by calling for strong, centralized state power. ///SECOND ACT PUTIN IN RUSSIAN IN FULL AND FADE UNDER/// He says, "Russia is a powerful nuclear state. This is something to be kept in mind not only by our friends." He says, "we are electing a president whose task it is to revive the economy, restore the country's prestige and to bring stability and welfare to everyone." Mr. Putin's foremost rival is Communist challenger Gennady Zyuganov. Opinion polls suggest he will get about 20-percent of the vote. Mr. Zyuganov Friday accused the Kremlin of trying to undermine his campaign and said Mr. Putin is controlled by big business. ///ACT ZYUGANOV IN RUSSIAN IN FULL AND FADE UNDER/// He says, "If the Communists are elected I guarantee that in five years we will restore Russia's ruined economic potential." He adds that within a decade Russia will be, in his words, "among the ten most wealthy and stable countries in the world." Whether or not Mr. Putin and Mr. Zyuganov meet in a second round remains to be seen. But for now, polls show Mr. Putin holding a commanding lead with approximately 50-percent of voters saying they will cast their votes for him. (Signed) NEB/EC/GE/KL 24-Mar-2000 11:30 AM EDT (24-Mar-2000 1630 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .