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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Matviyenko Sued in Election Spat

St. Petersburg Vice Governor Anna Markova filed a lawsuit Thursday accusing Valentina Matviyenko of breaking election rules and demanding that her name be struck from the ballot for the city's gubernatorial election.

Markova is the leading challenger to Matviyenko, the presidential envoy to the Northwestern Federal District, in the Sept. 21 vote.

At issue is a televised meeting between Matviyenko and President Vladimir Putin in which the president endorsed Matviyenko in her gubernatorial bid. At the Tuesday meeting, which was given prominent coverage on state-controlled Channel One and Rossia, Putin instructed Matviyenko to take care of his native city's immediate needs, including the 2004 budget, and then wished her good luck in the election.

"Putin violated the law," Markova's lawyer Vita Vladimirova said by telephone from St. Petersburg.

What's more, she said, Matviyenko "used her privileged position of Putin's envoy to the Northwest Federal District."

Vladimirova said this broke the 2002 law on voters' rights, which forbids campaigning that is not paid for with official campaign funds, and provided grounds to remove Matviyenko's name from the ballot.

The St. Petersburg election committee, which is supposed to look into the matter, said Thursday that it has asked Channel One and Rossia to provide copies of footage that they aired.

"The clips have to be sent to the election committee by Sept. 8," St. Petersburg election committee spokeswoman Olga Korneyeva told Interfax.

Matviyenko's campaign office has said there was nothing improper about Putin's remarks.

Matviyenko has not directly addressed the issue. "I see [Putin's support] as an assurance that I can win these elections honestly, competing with the other candidates," she was quoted by Interfax as saying Thursday.

 Pornography director and producer Sergei Pryanishnikov pulled out of the St. Petersburg gubernatorial race Thursday, Interfax reported. Pryanishnikov said he would run for a seat in the State Duma instead.