Chechen court bars poll candidate

The last serious rival to Russia's preferred candidate for Chechen president has been barred from standing in presidential elections.

    Kadyrov (R) is Russia's man in Chechnya

    Businessman Malik Saidullayev said on Thursday the Chechen supreme court ruling was inspired by Kremlin officials who want to ensure victory for Akhmad Kadyrov.

    A former grand mufti of Chechnya, Kadyrov was appointed by Russia to run the pro-Moscow administration in the North Caucasus republic

    three years ago.

    Saidullayev said: "We will appeal to the Russian Supreme Court in the next few

    days. We will get the explanation for the ruling tomorrow."

    Election withdrawals

    The main opponent to Kadyrov, Saidullayev was the only serious alternative in

    the presidential race after the withdrawal of three

    other contenders.

    One of these, Aslanbek Aslakhanov, Chechnya's lone deputy in

    Russia's lower house of parliament, announced he was quitting the

    race only a few hours earlier.

    Kadyrov

    was also indirectly accused by

    Saidullayev of using murder and kidnapping to

    intimidate his supporters.

    The candidate's team said armed people

    with portraits of Kadyrov pinned to their breasts had

    shot dead on Tuesday the son of one of Saidullayev's main election

    campaigners.

    Opinion poll

    Russia launched its second war
    on Chechnya in a decade in 1999 

    And on Wednesday, another campaign activist of Saidullayev

    was abducted by gun-toting men in the village of

    Sernovodskaya, the campaign headquarters said

    .

    An opinion survey released this week showed the vast majority of

    Chechens did not believe the elections would be free and fair.

    Tuesday's poll said 68% of Chechens did not have faith in the elections

     and 51%

    thought Kadyrov would win no matter what.

    The October 5 election is a showpiece in the Kremlin's efforts

    to convince the Russian people and the world that the war

    in the Caucasus is over

    .

    Brutal war

    But critics have said it is impossible to hold a legitimate

    election in Chechnya, which has been shattered by the years of war

    and where soldiers, rebels and civilians die nearly on a daily

    basis.

    The war has slowly bled the Russian forces of its men -

    official estimates say about 5000 soldiers have been killed in

    the conflict, while rights groups estimate the number to be around

    12,000.

    Tens of thousands of civilians are also believed to have died since the

    start of the conflict in October 1999, the second war between

    separatists and Russian troops in a decade.

    SOURCE: AFP


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