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    Russia seeks missing opposition leader

    Russia returning to it's Soviet ways?

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3471621.stm

    Russia seeks missing politician

    Mystery surrounds the disappearance of Russian presidential challenger Ivan Rybkin, missing since Thursday. Both the police and Mr Rybkin's campaign team say they still have no leads about the missing candidate. On Monday, prosecutors opened a murder inquiry and then cancelled it within an hour, citing a lack of evidence. Mr Rybkin, linked to exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky, is a fierce critic of President Putin but was seen as having little chance in March's election. His wife, Albina, filed a missing persons' report on Sunday, saying no-one had heard from her husband since Thursday evening. She said she returned home at 2300 (2000 GMT) on Thursday to find the house empty.

    Health spa claim

    Mail had been brought in and Mr Rybkin's jacket was lying in one of the rooms, suggesting he had been in the house earlier, Kommersant newspaper quoted Albina Rybkina as saying. "I think that when he was at home, someone called him and asked for a quick meeting," she said. "Clearly, they proposed that the meeting would be short because my husband didn't call me or leave a note." Police are said to have searched Mr Rybkin's homes and offices but have found no signs of foul play or clues to his whereabouts. Earlier on Monday, Russian MP Gennady Gudkov was quoted as saying that Mr Rybkin was alive and well and staying in a health spa outside Moscow. The claim was dismissed by anonymous police officials and the health spa itself.

    Little support

    A few days before his disappearance, Mr Rybkin ran a full-page open letter in Kommersant accusing the president of ruling by fear and described him as being "Russia's most powerful oligarch". In recent years he has called for talks between the Kremlin and Chechen rebels on ending the fighting in the republic, but Mr Putin is opposed to any negotiation. The number of candidates challenging Mr Putin has now risen to six after two more were approved by the electoral commission before a Sunday deadline. Most of Russia's best-known political names bowed out of the presidential race after Mr Putin's United Russia party and its allies swept last December's parliamentary elections. Mr Rybkin's campaign has failed to take off, and polls show his support running at about 1% of the electorate. Mr Rybkin is best known as a speaker of the Russian parliament and head of the national security council under former President Boris Yeltsin. He currently leads a faction of the Liberal Russia party, formed by Mr Berezovsky, and is seen as close to the UK-based tycoon. Mr Berezovsky told the Moscow Times on Sunday that he thought Mr Rybkin would reappear the following day. "I'm pretty certain he is alive and well," he said, but refused to elaborate.
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