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London-based dissident to run for president in Russia

Russia's opposition has nominated a former Soviet dissident living in London as its single candidate to run for president in Russia next year.

„The emergence of an initiative group to advance the famous writer and former Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky as a candidate for the presidency in Russia was announced in Moscow May 28,” the group said in a statement. Bukovsky, 65, who spent a total of 12 years in Soviet prisons, is a co-founder of Committee 2008, along with chess champion and opposition leader Garry Kasparov, liberal politician Boris Nemtsov and others. The organization the opposition says is designed to ensure free presidential elections in 2008. Bukovsky has agreed to stand: „I cannot promise happiness to our people. A long and difficult road toward recovery is before us. We could well fail to cope. But if this nation has the courage to appeal to people like me, we are willing to try.”

Bukovsky was imprisoned several times for organizing poetry meetings in central Moscow and the first demonstration in 40 years in the early 1960s. And in 1970, he managed to smuggle evidence of the use of Soviet psychiatric hospitals as prisons to the West. In 1976, Bukovsky was exchanged for former Chilean Communist leader Luis Corvalan in Switzerland. Bukovsky, who has lived in Cambridge doing neurophysiology research and publishing books since 1976, came to Moscow in 1991 during Boris Yeltsin's campaign for presidency as an expert to testify at a Communist Party trial. He was considered a potential vice-presidential running mate for Yeltsin. He has also been offered a chance to run for mayor in a post-Soviet Moscow, but refused.

President Vladimir Putin, who has been increasingly criticized in the West for his democratic record but rather popular within Russia, has repeatedly declined the possibility of his staying in office for a third term, but is widely expected to name his successor, who is likely to win polls in March 2008. (