Suspected Killer Put On Ballot For Duma

ST. PETERSBURG -- After a year in jail following his arrest for allegedly participating in several contract hits, St. Petersburg lawmaker Yury Shutov got some good news Friday when he was registered to run for the State Duma, the lower house of parliament.

The 210th district, where Shutov has been registered, was left without parliamentary representation when the majority of voters in last December's Duma elections opted for "none of the above." The second round is scheduled for March 26, the date of the presidential election.

Shutov was registered after a court upheld his lawyers' protest against a move by prison authorities last month to keep Shutov from opening the necessary bank account for campaign funds.

If Shutov - who technically remains a member of the city's Legislative Assembly - wins, he will receive immunity from prosecution. Shutov has been in jail since February 1999 on charges that he was connected to at least seven contract killings. Shutov's supporters say the charges are politically motivated.

On Friday, a representative of the jailed candidate brought 83,490 rubles (about $3,000) and all the necessary registration documents to the 210th district's election commission, said Natalya Timofeyeva, the commission's secretary. This sum is in lieu of the 4,500 signatures otherwise required to become a candidate.

Andrei Pelevin, one of Shutov's lawyers, said he filed a request this week with the electoral commission to allow his client to have "an equal chance to campaign," including meeting with voters and participating in televised debates with opponents.

Shutov's campaign organizer, Novy Peterburg journalist Denis Usov, said 70 supporters were now soliciting votes on the district's streets.

According to the newspaper Kommersant, Shutov's main support comes from within the city's jails.

And with 26 candidates fighting for the district's parliamentary seat, Shutov is facing tough competition - including Yabloko-backed former Duma Deputy Anatoly Golov, local lawmaker Konstantin Sevenard, chief editor of the Novy Rubezh newspaper Olga Borisova and head of the Afghan war veterans' association Afganvet, Sayid Tulakov.

In December's Duma elections, Shutov ran in the neighboring 211th district where he lost to the Yabloko-backed incumbent Pyotr Shelishch.

At the time, Shutov's candidacy was also unsuccessfully challenged by the city's prosecutor, who maintained that Shutov had not presented accurate information on the source of his campaign funding and had not declared several of his assets, including an apartment in Abkhazia and a car.

In November, police wearing ski masks and wielding AK-47 assault rifles burst into a St. Petersburg courtroom and arrested Shutov - who had been released on bail just seconds before. NTV television showed police jumping on tables and kicking bystanders in the courtroom toget at Shutov.

On March 16, Shutov's 54th birthday, a court will again hold a hearing on his release. "Even if he is set free, I am 100 percent sure he will be re-arrested, just like he was last time," said Pelevin.