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Ivan Rybkin Withdraws from Russia's Presidential Race - 2004-03-05

An outspoken opposition candidate in Russia's upcoming presidential election says he is withdrawing from the race. Ivan Rybkin, who mysteriously disappeared from Moscow for four days last month.

Mr. Rybkin told reporters in Moscow Friday that he is dropping out of the March 14 race, which he called "a farce."

His withdrawal leaves five candidates to run against incumbent President Vladimir Putin, who is widely expected to win a second term.

Earlier, a district court in Moscow rejected Mr. Rybkin's complaint about a decision by Russia's Central Election Commission, which barred him from taking part in televised pre-election debates because he wished to participate by satellite link from London.

While not mentioning the decision directly, Mr. Rybkin said that being an opposition candidate in Russia is extremely difficult.

Mr. Rybkin said he would not call on other presidential candidates to follow his example. But he also said he thinks a boycott of the March 14 election would be a good idea.

Recently, several other opposition candidates have said that they would consider withdrawing from the race to protest what they say is media bias in favor of President Putin.