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BBC's James Rodgers in Moscow
"Primakov was widely seen as Putin's main rival"
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The BBC's William Horsley in Moscow
"Chechnya may decide the result"
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Thursday, 13 January, 2000, 17:50 GMT
Primakov aims for Duma

Yevgeny Primakov: Yevgeny Primakov: Farewell to presidential ambitions

Former Russian Prime Minister, Yevgeny Primakov, is reportedly seeking to become speaker of the Russia's lower house of parliament, which could end his bid to become president in elections in March.

Russia at the Polls
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Mr Primakov, who heads the Fatherland-All Russia movement, was once considered a leading candidate to replace former President Boris Yeltsin and said as recently as last December that he would run.

But at a meeting of parliamentary leaders held on Thursday to consider candidates, Mr Primakov said he would stand for the top post in the newly-elected State Duma, reports say.

Correspondents say that, with just over two months to go to the presidential election, Mr Primakov may now be effectively ruling out standing for the top job.

Putin's gratitude

In St Petersburg, the clear front-runner in the presidential race, acting President Vladimir Putin, announced his formal acceptance of his nomination.

Russian soldiers Chechnya: Soldiers' fortune may be crucial

"I would like to say that I accept the offer with satisfaction and gratitude and I will take part in this election campaign," he said.

The announcement came the day after almost 200 leading politicians, businessmen and celebrities gathered in Moscow to endorse his candidacy.

Clear favourite

Opinion polls currently put Mr Putin in a very strong position for the vote, which is due to take place on 26 March. His present political success is largely due to popular support for the Kremlin's military campaign in Chechnya.

But Moscow's forces have recently suffered their worst setbacks of the conflict so far and parts of the Russian media have begun to question the way the war is being fought.

Our correspondent in Moscow, James Rodgers says any future large-scale public disaffection with the campaign could still affect Mr Putin's showing.

Communist Party leader,Gennady Zyuganov, is expected to be Mr Putin's closest rival

Also planning to run are liberal anti-war candidate and leader of the Yabloko party Grigori Yavlinsky, and outspoken far-right politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky.

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See also:
31 Dec 99 |  Europe
Russia's leaders: The race for the Kremlin
12 Jan 00 |  Europe
Putin's presidential chances
11 Jan 00 |  Europe
Putin: Russia must be great again
01 Jan 00 |  Europe
Vladimir Putin: Spy turned politician
31 Dec 99 |  Europe
Yeltsin resignation stuns Russia

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