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Russia: Kasparov Says Authorities Thwarted Presidential Bid

Garry Kasparov (file photo) (AFP) Opposition leader Garry Kasparov is accusing Russian authorities of putting the brakes on a race he says he -- and others -- had no chance of winning.

Kasparov has said he will not run in the country's March 2 presidential election, claiming Russian authorities thwarted his efforts to be registered as a candidate.

On December 13, the day when Kasparov's supporters met insurmountable obstacles in trying to formally nominate him, the Other Russia leader told RFE/RL's Russian Service that "people who suit Kremlin's interest will be the only ones who will reach the finish line of the farce that is supposed to end on March 2."

That day was the deadline for nonparty candidates to inform the Central Election Commission of their intention to hold a nominating congress attended by no fewer than 500 supporters. From there, nonparty candidates have until December 18 to officially announce the nomination.

The umbrella opposition group Other Russia had planned to hold its congress on December 12 in Moscow, but the meeting was cancelled at the last minute after the planned venue backed out. "Left with no legal means to announce his candidacy, Garry Kasparov has opted to rescind his name from the roster," read a statement on Other Russia's website on December 14.

Kasparov told RFE/RL that authorities had issued "strict" instructions to prevent his supporters from holding the required meeting.

"I simply have to acknowledge today that I have not had the technical capability to hold this meeting in Moscow. I hope people will believe me," Kasparov said. "We made efforts to change this situation but apparently there is a very strict instruction with regard to all suitable venues in Moscow, for 500 or more people, to prevent Kasparov from holding this event in Moscow."

Election officials have denied the allegations, with Central Election Committee official Aleksei Kisin telling Interfax that "there are a lot of buildings, in Russia in general and in Moscow in particular, where people can gather for very different reasons."

The committee has reported that it received notifications of intent to enter the presidential race from the parties or "initiative groups" of 25 candidates, including Kasparov.

However, Kasparov explains, the documentation was not adequate because his supporters were unable to provide a precise address for a nominating congress after the Mir cinema terminated its agreement to host the event, and other venues "refused" to provide space for the congress.

The opposition leader said that his supporters received a standard response in their efforts to find an alternative place to hold their congress: "'Of course we have a venue. But it's not for Kasparov.'"

In late September, Other Russia decided to back Kasparov as its single presidential candidate.

But even if the umbrella opposition group had managed to officially register Kasparov, who heads the United Civil Front party, he had virtually no chance of winning the presidency.

The post appears to be reserved for President Vladimir Putin's preferred successor, Dmitry Medvedev.

Despite the setback, Kasparov apparently intends to launch an unofficial grassroots campaign.

"As an act of protest, and to demonstrate his support, the leader of the Other Russia coalition will continue campaigning unofficially," read a statement on the Other Russia site. "He has already begun collecting signatures from around the country, and is raising grassroots support."

RFE/RL Russia Report

RFE/RL Russia Report

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