Court Refuses SPS Case Against Putin

The Supreme Court rejected a request Tuesday from the Union of Right Forces party to remove President Vladimir Putin from United Russia's candidate list for the Dec. 2 State Duma elections.

The Union of Right Forces, or SPS, demanded that the court strike Putin from the list for abusing his position to undermine the party's election campaign.

"We never expected a positive outcome," said SPS federal committee member Boris Nemtsov.

"All we wanted was to register the fact that Putin uses the special services and the courts to repress the opposition, like in Belarus and Turkmenistan," Nemtsov said.

Pavel Odintsov, a court spokesman, confirmed the decision but refused to provide any grounds for the ruling Tuesday. SPS has five days to appeal, he said.

Vladimir Pligin, United Russia's representative in court, said SPS failed to provide sufficient evidence to support its claims, Interfax reported.

Less than two weeks before the parliamentary elections, liberal parties are urging authorities to call Putin and several organizations to account for alleged breaches of election law.

Anna Solodukha, an SPS spokeswoman, gave an example of what the party was protesting.

National television networks were giving three hours free airtime per week to Putin and United Russia, whereas other parties were being shut out, she said.

The Central Elections Commission refused to look at a complaint filed by the SPS, Solodukha said.

A commission spokesman said he was not authorized to comment immediately.

Solodukha said the party's complaint also concerned the seizure of its party's campaign leaflets in a number of the country's regions and public criticism of the SPS by Putin.

The party also held a small demonstration outside the Federal Drug Control Service on Tuesday, she said.

The protesters were speaking out against "Putin's Plan," which was used and then ditched as part of United Russia's slogan. Plan is slang in Russian for marijuana.

Solodukha denied that the party was looking for extra media coverage ahead of the elections.

Meanwhile, Yabloko's youth wing submitted a complaint to the Central Elections Commission Tuesday against the web site Zaputina.ru, which, the group said, contains illegal promotional material for Putin and United Russia.

"If the money for the web site came from the party, then we wouldn't have any problems," said Ilya Yashin, head of Yabloko Youth.

Yashin said he suspected that the funds were from private sources, which would qualify as illegal promotion under electoral law.

The Commission official who stamped the complaint told Yashin that he would receive a reply within 11 days, Yashin said.

Yabloko Youth tagged another complaint onto the form at the last minute.

Monday's evening news on Channel One contained 23 minutes of United Russia coverage, Yashin said, which, if considered to be promoting the party, is also illegal.

Meanwhile, People's Democratic Party leader Mikhail Kasyanov may reconsider participating in March's presidential election.

In a note to colleagues, Kasyanov asked them to consider whether "there is any sense in participating in the elections without the unification" of opposition forces, Kommersant reported Tuesday.