Kasyanov Says State Derailing Kremlin Bid

Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said Saturday that the Interior and Justice ministries were conducting a coordinated campaign to prevent him from running for president.

Kasyanov, who last week applied to the Central Elections Commission to run, said state law enforcement officials were putting heavy pressure on members of his opposition Popular Democratic Front.

"With references to orders by higher authorities, people are threatened, pressed to confess to alleged illegal activities, forced to abandon membership in the political party," Kasyanov said in a statement published on his web site.

"I am decidedly protesting against the anti-constitutional and provocative actions of the authorities, which are supposed to guard law and order," he added.

Kasyanov is running as an independent in the March 2 election because his political group is not represented in the State Duma.

The elections commission is expected decide on Jan. 27 whether he is qualified to run as a presidential candidate.

Kasyanov, who entered politics as an opposition leader after Putin dismissed him as prime minister in 2004, has said he did not hope for a fair presidential campaign as television coverage was denied to him on state-controlled channels.

The election looks almost certain to be won by President Vladimir Putin's preferred candidate, First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.