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Page last updated at 17:17 GMT, Friday, 13 March 2009

Romanov presidency hopes dashed

Vladimir Romanov shows concern while watching Hearts
Romanov has been blocked from running in the presidential election

Russian-born Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov has been told he cannot run in Lithuania's presidential election.

Romanov, 61, put his name forward for the country's forthcoming May poll, but is ineligible to run for office.

The Constitution requires the candidate to be of Lithuanian origin, but Romanov was born in Russia and moved to Lithuania in the 1950s.

"I am disappointed. It made me wonder who I am," said Romanov, who assumed control of the Edinburgh club in 2005.

The businessman, who recently topped a public vote in his country's version of Strictly Come Dancing, applied on Thursday to stand in the May election as president.

The commission voted unanimously that he does not qualify to be of Lithuanian origin and by law he cannot stand

Saulius Katuoka
Lithuanian electoral commission

However, his application has now been rejected by the country's electoral authorities.

"The commission voted unanimously that he does not qualify to be of Lithuanian origin and by law he cannot stand as president," said Saulius Katuoka, deputy chairman of the electoral commission.

MP and former Hearts chairman Foulkes had introduced Romanov to the Edinburgh club but became one of 60-year-old Romanov's fiercest critics for his leadership style.

The former Soviet submariner has been an often controversial figure since taking control at Tynecastle.

Romanov began his reign by promising to break the stranglehold on the Scottish title long enjoyed by Glasgow clubs Celtic and Rangers but has sacked a succession of managers as the Old Firm continued to dominate.

Through sponsorship, he also controls the Lithuanian club FBK Kaunas and Belarusian Premier League outfit FC MTZ-RIPO and, in addition, has property and textile interests.

The owner has used Kaunas as a feeder club for Hearts, who have signed a string of Lithuanian players, and former managers accused him of meddling in team affairs.

The principal business interest for Romanov, who says he began his rise to riches selling bootleg Beatles records, is a substantial stake in the Lithuanian bank Ukio Bankas.

He is chairman of the bank's parent body, UBIG Investments, which is the majority of shareholder in Scottish Premier League club Hearts.

Charlie Mann, the former spokesman for Romanov, told BBC Scotland that Romanov had recently taken more of a back seat at Tynecastle, but had shown an interest in moving into politics.

"It has been a year or so since I have worked with him closely, but in my time I worked with him he did have political aspirations," said Mann.

"There were lots of leading Lithuanian government figures at the prestigious New Year events that Romanov runs for his business contacts.

"He did move in the right circles."

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see also
Hearts settle outstanding wages
05 Dec 08 |  Hearts
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