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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 February, 2004, 14:48 GMT
Putin rival threatens pull-out
Irina Khakamada
Khakamada says the election is not a fair fight
A liberal challenger to Vladimir Putin in Russia's presidential election has said she may quit.

Irina Khakamada says the campaign and media coverage are so heavily biased in favour of Mr Putin that she is considering pulling out.

Mr Putin is expected to storm to victory in the 14 March election, with opinion polls giving him more than 70% support and his rivals under 5%.

"The election campaign is acquiring ever more features of lawlessness and lies," she said.

"In this situation, a competitive contest of ideas and alternatives becomes impossible.

"If the situation that has arisen does not alter in any way, I do not rule out withdrawing my candidacy from the presidential election," she said in a statement.

Ms Khakamada urges other candidates - including communist Nikolai Kharitonov and nationalist Sergei Glazyev - to follow her example.

Complaints

Ms Khakamada's complaints include the refusal of Moscow authorities to allow her to hold two election rallies in the city.

Media coverage, much of controlled directly or indirectly by Mr Putin, is also biased, she says.

Mr Putin's election broadcasts and daily activities are receiving heavy television coverage, while virtually no reference is made to his challengers.

One recent live broadcast of a Putin address showed several minutes of the audience waiting for him to appear.

Six people are in the race, including Ivan Rybkin who is currently abroad after alleging he had been the victim of dirty tricks.

He is also quoted as saying he may step down.

Another contender, upper house speaker Sergei Mironov, insists he will stay in the race.




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