Former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has accused authorities of obstructing a key opposition party meeting that was expected to chose him as the movement's leader.

The former prime minister, now an opponent of President Vladimir Putin, said Russian authorities fear any independent political movement.

The opposition Democratic Party had scheduled its congress Saturday at Moscow's House of Unions. But Mr. Kasyanov's supporters say another group took over the premises overnight, forcing them to meet elsewhere.

The people at the House of Unions declared themselves the official party congress and elected Andrei Bogdanov as their leader.

Mr. Kasyanov's supporters accused Kremlin authorities of bribing Democratic Party members and prompting a split in the group.

He has announced plans to seek the presidency in 2008. Meanwhile, authorities are probing corruption charges against him, an investigation he has called political.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.