A former Russian prime minister and critic of President Vladimir Putin has been barred from running in the country’s presidential ballot in March. The Election Commission has announced its refusal to register Mikhail Kasyanov. It maintains that more than 13 percent of required signatures of support submitted by Kasyanov were not valid.
Observers say disqualifying Kasyanov removes an outspoken Kremlin critic from a contest the opposition says is already slanted in favour of Dmitry Medvedev. Kasyanov accuses the Kremlin of trying to sabotage his campaign, a claim denied by officials. Other official candidates include ultra-nationalist Vladimir Jirinovski, communist Genadi Zuganov and another pro-Kremlin candidate Andrei Bogdanov.