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Russia: Kasparov's Presidential Candidacy In Doubt

With a key deadline looming, presidential hopeful Garry Kasparov made a stunning announcement.

Saying government pressure prevented his umbrella opposition group, Other Russia, from meeting requirements to get his name on the ballot, the outspoken Kremlin critic and opposition leader declared on December 12 that he would drop his presidential ambitions if today's deadline could not be met.

The same day, the conference scheduled to nominate Kasparov -- at which at least 500 supporters were required to be present -- had to be canceled because, he said, no venue was available in all of Moscow.

The development placed a formidable hurdle in Kasparov's campaign trail, as today marked the deadline for candidates' "initiative groups" to inform the Central Election Committee of their intention to hold a nominating conference.

With time running out on a last-minute solution, Kasparov spokeswoman Marina Litvinovich told RFE/RL's Russian Service that the government appears to be pressuring venues not to rent conference space to Kasparov's supporters.

"Judging from the situation yesterday evening, as well as this morning (December 13), we still don't have any space in Moscow which we could rent for money and have a gathering of our group," Litvinovich said. "Therefore, it can be said that we have been unable to execute this very first step, necessary for launching a campaign for the Russian presidential elections."

The authorities have denied the accusation. Election Committee official Aleksei Kisin told Interfax today that "there are a lot of buildings, in Russia in general and in Moscow in particular, where people can gather for very different reasons."

Even if Kasparov manages to find a venue at this late hour and complete the requirements that will gain him a spot on the March 2 ballot, he is given virtually no chance to win.

It almost certain that President Vladimir Putin's stated preference as his successor, Dmitry Medvedev, will win easily.

Kasparov's announcement was followed by other reports of harassment of people and groups with ties to his party, United Civil Front.

The former chess champion's wife and daughter were reportedly detained for a document check as they tried to board an international flight on December 12, causing them to miss the flight.

Today, supporters of the Other Russia umbrella group that includes Kasparov's party ran into trouble as they traveled to a small town south of Moscow to attend the funeral of Yuri Chervochkin, who died from injuries sustained during an antigovernment rally in November. The 22-year-old activist was allegedly beaten by police.

Litvinovich told RFE/RL's Russian Service that two busloads of opposition supporters were held up for 45 minutes by a half dozen riot policemen at a checkpoint on the road to Serpukhov, where the funeral was held.

Copyright (c) 2007. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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