Chechen interior ministry troops surrounded the station's headquarters in the capital, Grozny, on Friday.

"Journalists could not take equipment out of the building, so therefore they could not film or prepare the news," a source at the station said.

Friday marks exactly a month before the poll in the Muslim Caucasus republic, and the start of the Kremlin's efforts to convince the world the war in Chechnya is finally over.

Pro-Russiain candidates

Although 10 candidates are registered for the poll, only three are considered to have a realistic shot at the post.

These are Akhmad Kadyrov, who heads the pro-Moscow administration in Chechnya; Malik Saidullayev, a Moscow businessman; and Aslanbek Aslakhanov, Chechnya's deputy in Russia's lower house of parliament.

Kadyrov is considered the favourite because he has controlled the administration for more than three years, following his appointment to the post by President Vladimir Putin.

He is also thought to be implicitly backed by the Kremlin.

Poll concerns

In Russian-controlled Chechnya, control over government structures can count more in an election than popularity among the voters.

Controls ensuring fair elections are less than foolproof - during a referendum in March, foreign reporters were able to cast ballots in a poll that produced a result of 85% turnout and 96% approval.

At the popular level, many Chechens dislike Kadyrov, saying the former rebel and mufti has done nothing to improve their lives since assuming power.

In a July opinion poll, Kadyrov trailed his main opponents, with only 13% of those questioned saying they would vote for him.

At least 5000 Russian soldiers
have been killed in the Chechen


This compared with 23% who would vote for Saidullayev and 22% for Aslakhanov.

But during his years in power, Kadyrov has developed an impressive, armed "security service" that official estimates put at around 250 men and unofficial estimates put at nearly 5000.

Reports have swept Chechnya lately that "Kadyrov's men" have threatened people with force unless they voted for their candidate.

Spokesmen for Kadyrov have categorically denied such accusations.

Whatever the case, many in Chechnya fear a Kadyrov loss on October 5 will result in more bloodshed as his supporters refuse to recognise the winner.

Resistance attacks

Kadyrov's strongest challenger is generally considered to be Saidullayev, a millionaire who is known for running several aid projects for the thousands of Chechen refugees who fled the republic after the Russian troops invaded in 1999.

The presidential election is a key element in the Kremlin's peace plan for the region.

President Putin launched the current war in 1999 and the Kremlin is keen to show that the war is over before Putin faces re-election next March.

But such efforts have been belied by daily resistance attacks on Russian targets, both within Chechnya and throughout Russia.