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Litvinenko Murder Suspect Drops Sochi Mayoral Bid

Andrei Lugovoi
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Britain's main suspect in the London murder of Kremlin critic Aleksandr Litvinenko has dropped his bid to become mayor of the Russian city hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics, with his party blaming low support.

Andrei Lugovoi, 42, who is wanted by British police on suspicion of killing Litvinenko with a radioactive poison in 2006, said he would instead focus on Russia's parliament, where he represents the far-right Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR).

"Today the leadership of the party took a final decision that my candidacy would not be put forward for the Sochi mayoral election," Lugovoi said in a statement.

The LDPR, which last month said Lugovoi was its most likely candidate, dropped him in favor of a local politician after Sochi residents said they would prefer to be represented by someone from their region.

The winner of the election on April 26 will be mayor of the resort town on the Black Sea for five years and have a strong influence on how to spend billions of dollars set aside for the Winter Olympics in February 2014.

Lugovoi has become a minor celebrity in Russia after the government refused to extradite him to Britain, citing its constitution, which bans handing over nationals to stand trial in foreign countries.

Lugovoi, a former security service bodyguard, who went on to run a private security business, denies any role in Litvinenko's murder.

Diplomats have suggested that Lugovoi is using politics to keep himself in the public eye to avoid any risk to his own safety following the Litvinenko murder.