Troubles Increase for Kasyanov

Nizhny Novgorod region authorities have found problems with almost 50,000 signatures gathered there in support of former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov's presidential bid, an election official said Wednesday, Gazeta.ru reported.

"We checked the data and it turned out that in practically all cases there are discrepancies, inaccuracies," said Stanislav Bisin, head of the regional branch of the Central Elections Commission, the web site reported.

"There was even the signature of a person who died before the start of the election campaign," he added.

Bisin's claims follow Tuesday's announcement by the Prosecutor General's Office that it had opened an investigation into signatures Kasyanov's team collected in the Marii-El republic and Yaroslavl region.

Three men and one woman in the Yaroslavl region city of Rybinsk have been detained on suspicion of forging signatures there from Jan. 8 to Jan. 12, Interfax reported Wednesday, citing regional prosecutors.

After announcing Tuesday that more than 15 percent of a sample of 400,000 signatures were invalid, the elections commission said Wednesday that only 170 of those checked were forged -- that is, penned by somebody other than the signatory, Gazeta.ru reported. Kasyanov has submitted over 2 million signatures in support of his candidacy.

Vladimir Churov, head of the commission, told a radio station that the share of invalid signatures dropped to 13.68 percent as the counting progressed Wednesday afternoon.

The majority of the cases -- accounting for 32,000 of the problematic signatures -- involved "violations in collectors' data," the commission said, without explaining the term.

A further 30,000 were disqualified because of technical errors, such as incorrect dates, the web site said.

Meanwhile, an official with Kasyanov's campaign, Mark Feigin, has filed a lawsuit against the elections commission, the site reported.

Feigin said the majority of the electorate was unaware that the presidential campaign had begun. As such, the suit charges the commission with failing in its legal obligation to keep the electorate informed about the March 2 vote, Gazeta.ru reported.

Feigin was also a signatory to a letter sent Monday to Prosecutor General Yury Chaika urging his office to take action against pressure on signature collectors in the regions.

The elections commission is expected to make a decision on Kasyanov's registration as a candidate on Sunday.