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Russian Presidential Candidate Missing

Moscow, 8 February 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Moscow police today launched a manhunt for Ivan Rybkin, a candidate in next month's presidential election who has been missing for three days.

Rybkin's family and aides said they lost all contact with the former speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament, the Sstate Duma, on 5 February.

Rybkin yesterday was registered as a presidential candidate by the Central Election Commission (TsIK). The registration came two days after TsIK Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said he believed over one-fourth of the signatures of support submitted by Rybkin were counterfeit.

Rybkin's campaign manager, Ksenya Ponomaryova, said the TsIK had no serious complains regarding the signatures' authenticity until the would-be candidate accused President Vladimir Putin of ruling by fear in a full-page open letter published this week in "Kommersant-Daily."