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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 February, 2004, 22:56 GMT
Missing Russian candidate returns
Ivan Rybkin speaks to the media on his arrival to Moscow from Ukraine
Rybkin looked exhausted on his return
A Russian presidential candidate, who went missing for five days, has arrived back in Moscow from Ukraine, saying he might drop out of the race.

Ivan Rybkin said at Moscow airport what had happened since last Thursday was abuse, but gave no further details.

Earlier, he told Russian media he went to visit friends in Kiev and "decided not to listen to the radio or TV".

There had been speculation that Mr Rybkin had been kidnapped or killed to remove him from next month's poll.

Other media reports in Russia suggested that he had staged his disappearance on 5 February as a publicity stunt.

Mr Rybkin, linked to exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky, is a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin.

But he is seen as no threat to Mr Putin in the 14 March election.

Upon arriving at Moscow's Sheremetievo airport, Mr Rybkin looked pale and exhausted, a BBC correspondent said.

I am entitled to two or three days of private life... I changed my jacket, got on a train and went to Kiev
Ivan Rybkin
He described the events of the last five days as the most difficult experience during his 15 years in politics.

He said he was returning "as if I had been in a difficult round of Chechen negotiations".

"I'm very satisfied that I returned," Mr Rybkin said, hinting at a possibility that he might not have come back alive.

'Taking a break'

Earlier, Mr Rybkin defended his disappearance in an interview with Interfax news agency.

"I am entitled to two or three days of private life," he said.

"Last week I decided to take a break from the intrigue that there was about me. I left fruit and money for my wife, who is looking after our grandchildren at the moment, but did not tell her anything.

"I changed my jacket, got on a train and went to Kiev."

He said he switched off his mobile phone and went for walks.

A nationwide search for Mr Rybkin was started at the weekend, after his wife and his campaign manager reported him missing to the Moscow police.

Russian prosecutors briefly opened a murder inquiry on Monday but cancelled it within an hour, citing a lack of evidence.


SEE ALSO:
Profile: Ivan Rybkin
09 Feb 04  |  Europe
Russian democracy in question
08 Dec 03  |  Europe
Russia's liberals boycott poll
21 Dec 03  |  Europe



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