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Missing Russian Politician Back In Moscow

Kyiv, 10 February 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Russian presidential candidate Ivan Rybkin -- who went missing last week -- is back in Moscow today after surfacing alive and well in Kyiv.

Rybkin is one of six candidates running against Russian President Vladimir Putin in the 14 March presidential election. He is an outspoken critic of the president and his disappearance soon after he left his Moscow apartment had caused a great deal of media speculation.

Rybkin called his aides on his mobile phone from Kyiv today and said he was surprised by all the fuss. He said he had traveled to Ukraine to visit friends and was shocked when he read in a newspaper that his absence was given such wide attention. Upon arriving by plane in Moscow this evening, he offered little further information.

Rybkin said he had merely decided "to take a break" and that he had stayed "with friends in Kyiv."

Rybkin said he did not listen to radio or watch television, and had switched off his mobile phone. He said he telephoned his aides after reading a newspaper report about himself today in Kyiv.

None of the candidates running against Putin are seen as posing a serious threat to the incumbent's chances of winning a second term as president.