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Residents of two far eastern regions voted Sunday to merge their provinces in a referendum that was part of efforts to consolidate the Kremlin's control over local governments.
With nearly 80 percent of ballots counted, about 85 percent of voters backed the plan to reunite the Kamchatka region and the Koryak autonomous district, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported, quoting local election authorities. The two regions were part of one province until 1993.
The merger plan needs the backing of at least 50 percent of voters in each province to be endorsed.
The Kremlin has encouraged Russia's provinces to merge as part of President Vladimir Putin's efforts to strengthen federal controls at the expense of regional autonomy.
The Ural Mountains' Perm region merged with the neighboring Komi-Permyak Autonomous District in 2003, and earlier this year a regional referendum supported the reunification of the Krasnoyarsk region with the Evenki and Taimyr autonomous districts.
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