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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bogdanov Joining Sochi Mayor Race

Former presidential candidate Andrei Bogdanov on Wednesday became the latest entry into the crowded Sochi mayoral election, saying the Black Sea resort could become "the Nice of Russia."

Bogdanov, 39, is the former head of the now-defunct Democratic Party of Russia, which was widely seen as a Kremlin-controlled project to draw votes away from actual opposition candidates and give voters a tame liberal option.

"Sochi should become the Nice of Russia, where the majority can earn a living through small businesses," Bogdanov told The Moscow Times on Wednesday after submitting his registration papers to the Sochi elections commission.

The mayoral election in Sochi, which is slated to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, has become one of the year's most intriguing political events.

Several high-profile candidates, including opposition politician Boris Nemtsov and businessman Alexander Lebedev, have already announced that they would run for the post.

Bogdanov's bid brings to the election one of the country's most curious political actors.

Though virtually unknown nationally, Bogdanov was the only independent candidate who managed to get on the ballot of the 2008 presidential election by collecting 2 million signatures to support his campaign.

Critics call Bogdanov a Kremlin stooge and say his inclusion on the presidential ballot was merely a Kremlin move to have a token liberal in the election, which Dmitry Medvedev won by a landslide.

Promising to make Russia an EU member, Bogdanov captured a measly 1.3 percent of the vote.

Bogdanov, who also who heads up the country's largest Masonic lodge, told The Moscow Times by telephone Wednesday that he would again run as an independent in the Sochi election.

Twenty-two candidates had applied to get on the ballot as of Wednesday, Interfax reported. The deadline to register for the April 26 election is Thursday.

State Duma Deputy Andrei Lugovoi, who faces murder charges in Britain in connection with the 2006 poisoning death of Alexander Litvinenko in London, had expressed interest in running but announced this week that he would not enter the race.

The United Russia candidate, acting Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov, is seen as a favorite in the election.