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Political Dirty Tricks Charged in St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg, April 11 (RFE/RL) - In the shadow of the Russian presidential campaign, another political race is heating up today in Russia - the St. Petersburg gubernatorial campaign before a May 19 election.

First Deputy Mayor Vladimir Yakovlev, running against his boss, incumbent Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, made public Monday a letter to Sobchak charging political dirty tricks. The letter alleges that Sobchak has been pressuring the city's news organizations to avoid coverage of Yakovlev or to cast him in a negative light.

Yakovlev cited as an example a recent readers' poll by the daily newspaper Chas Pik (Rush Hour) to determine the city's dirtiest street. As the official responsible for city services, Yakovlev claimed the poll was a device aimed at him.

As reported, the mayor has not responded. Chas Pik this week assured its readers that it bore no malice toward Yakovlev and has felt no pressure from Sobchak. The newspaper often runs readers' polls. A recent example asked readers to rate legislation passed during Sobchak's administration.

The May 19 election will select St. Petersburg's first governor. Recent legislation upgraded from 'mayor' the title of the city's chief executive.