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Russian Election Official Questions Kasyanov's Presidential Bid

A Russian election official says former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov should be barred from the country's presidential election.

The secretary of Russia's Central Election Commission, Nikolai Konkin announced Thursday that Mr. Kasyanov's registration application was invalid because of tens of thousands of counterfeit signatures. Independent candidates must gather at least two million signatures from supporters throughout the country.

The commission is expected to make a final decision on the potential candidate's eligibility by Sunday.

Mr. Kasyanov says he is fighting the allegations. He accuses Kremlin authorities of intimidation to block the opposition access to the news media.

Mr. Kasyanov was prime minister during President Vladimir Putin's first term, but was dismissed and later became a critic of the Kremlin.

Russia's constitution bars Mr. Putin from running for a third consecutive term.

The Russian president has endorsed First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev as his successor. Nationwide opinion polls show Medvedev has an overwhelming lead over his rivals.

So far, the election commission has officially registered three other presidential candidates. They include: Andrei Bogdanov, leader of the Russian Democratic Party, Gennady Zyuganov, of the Communist Party and Vladimir Zhirinovsky, of the Liberal Democratic Party.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.