Investigator Arrives at Kasyanov Office With Signature Queries

Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov's office was visited by an investigator from Khabarovsk last week in what a senior official with his political movement said was part of a campaign by the authorities to discredit the opposition leader.

Alexander Polovinkin, head of the executive council of the Russian People's Democratic Union, said the investigator from the Khabarovsk region branch of the Investigative Committee came to question staff about signatures gathered in support of Kasyanov's application to run in the March 2 presidential election.

Polovinkin said the investigation into 80,000 signatures that the Central Elections Commission decided were forgeries or improperly gathered was initiated on the orders of the Federal Security Service and involved "a whole bunch of violations" of the law.

The signatures were the commission's chief grounds for refusing to register Kasyanov.

The investigator, Alexander Khalezov, had an informal conversation with Polovinkin "over a cup of coffee," asking him questions about the signatures, Polovinkin said.

He said the investigator also asked the budget and backers for Kasyanov's failed presidential bid.

Khalezov told Polovinkin that he might return Tuesday to hold a recorded interrogation session.

"I am not going to give written evidence," Polovinkin said. "I am not going to play a part in this show."

Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

A faxed request for comment to the Federal Security Service sent early Monday afternoon also went unanswered.

n Moscow's Tagansky District Court will hear an appeal Wednesday on the Federal Registration Service's refusal on Jan. 28 to register Kasyanov's movement as a party, the movement's web site said.