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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Shenderovich Says Film Ads Break Law

MTViktor Shenderovich
Viktor Shenderovich, the liberal candidate in a State Duma by-election in Moscow, accused his pro-Kremlin rival in the race, film director Stanislav Govorukhin, of breaking election rules by campaigning under the guise of advertising his new film.

Shenderovich, a satirical radio journalist, said Thursday that billboard ads across the city for Govorukhin's film "Not By Bread Alone," which is produced by Mosfilm, meant that the United Russia-backed candidate was exceeding legal limits on campaign spending.

Shenderovich and Govorukhin are viewed as the frontrunners among the 12 candidates running for a single-mandate seat in the Universitetsky district. The election will be held Dec. 4, the same day as the City Duma elections.

"All over Moscow we see billboards advertising Govorukhin's new film. His picture and name are everywhere in the city," Shenderovich said. "This advertising, right before the election, is not being paid for from his campaign budget."

By law, Duma candidates cannot spend more than 6 million rubles ($210,000) on their election campaign, but Shenderovich estimated that the ads for Govorukhin's film alone would cost about $160,000.

A spokesman for the Central Elections Commission, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that if a candidate spent more than the legal limit he would be thrown out of the race.

Govorukhin's campaign manager, Vadim Kitov, rejected the allegations as "made up," and said the ads had been planned well before Govorukhin decided to run for the Duma. "As a film director, his films are advertised -- this is normal," Kitov said.

A Moscow court on Thursday rejected an appeal by Shenderovich to invalidate Govorukhin's registration.

The Universitetsky district is known as one of the most liberal in the country. Jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky attempted to register as a candidate in the by-election before a court rejected his appeal against a conviction on tax and fraud charges in September.

Shenderovich, who is best known as the main screenwriter for the axed NTV television "Kukly" political satire, said that state television was broadcasting Govorukhin's old films in an effort to give him more publicity ahead of the election. "This is all done on purpose. The authorities have already chosen the winner, instead of the people," Shenderovich said, adding that he did not have an equal opportunity to promote his campaign.

On Saturday, NTV will show Govorukhin's 1999 film "The Voroshilov Sharpshooter," while Rossia will show his 2003 film "Bless the Woman" on Sunday. Govorukhin's four-film series from 1979, "Can't Change the Meeting Place," is to air soon on Channel One.

Govorukhin appeared on Channel One on Sunday as a guest on the analytical show "Vremena."

Kitov said the showing of Govorukhin's films and his appearance on television did not break election rules. "Television channels themselves decide what they want to show and whom they want to invite," he said.

The elections commission official said that by law candidates should receive equal media access, but he refused to comment on Shenderovich's complaints. Spokespeople for Channel One and Rossia refused to comment Thursday. No one who was authorized to speak on the matter could be immediately contacted at NTV.

Govorukhin, a former State Duma deputy, was one of 50 well-known cultural, sporting and scientific figures in June who signed an open letter that decried criticism of the justice system over Khodorkovsky's conviction in May.

Shenderovich has taken a sabbatical from his job as the host of Ekho Moskvy radio's satirical program "Plavleny Syrok," or Processed Cheese, for the duration of the election campaign, as required by law.