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Political rival kidnapped and forced to do revolting acts

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Putin poll rival tells of 'kidnap'
By Anton La Guardia, Diplomatic Editor
(Filed: 14/02/2004)

A fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin who vanished for several days claimed yesterday that he was kidnapped, drugged and filmed in a "revolting" video designed to compromise him.

Ivan Rybkin, who is standing in the presidential election next month, said in London his life was in danger and he would conduct the rest of his campaign by video link and television advertisements.

Mr Rybkin was reported missing by his wife last week but he reappeared five days later in Kiev and flew back to Moscow.

At first he said he had gone away to escape the constant attentions of the Russian secret service and announced a week-long break from the campaign.

But yesterday he said he was lured away from Moscow on what he thought was a secret mission to meet Aslan Maskhadov, the Chechen rebel leader.

Mr Rybkin, a former speaker of the Russian parliament is the candidate for Liberal Russia, a party backed by Boris Berezovsky, a tycoon in exile in London. He said he was taken to the Ukrainian capital accompanied by unknown men and arrived at a flat there on Feb 6.

"I had tea and sandwiches and suddenly felt drowsy," said Mr Rybkin through an interpreter. When he woke up, he said, two armed men told him it was Feb 10 and showed him newspaper articles about his disappearance.

"They showed me a revolting video tape with my participation," he added. "It was a plan to compromise me and force me to be co-operative." Mr Rybkin said the video was made by "perverts". In a reference to the president, he said: "I know who benefited."

Opinion polls have given Mr Rybkin just one per cent of the vote, but he claimed his support was much greater.

Mr Rybkin's wife did not follow him to London. This week the Interfax news agency quoted her as saying: "Poor Russia if such people are trying to lead her."

The head of the Russian election commission criticised state TV for extensive coverage of an election address by Mr Putin.

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