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A fraud case was launched Tuesday after prosecutors
A fraud case was launched Tuesday after prosecutors said that over 15,500 false signatures had been collected in support of ex-premier and presidential candidate Mikhail Kasyanov's election nomination.

Tatyana Chernysheva, a spokesperson for the Russian Prosecutor General's Office, said false signatures had been collected in Rybinsk in central Russia and the Republic of Mari-El in Russia's Volga area.

Kasyanov, the sole liberal opposition candidate after SPS nominee Boris Nemtsov stepped down in December to make way for the ex-premier, provided 2.067 million signatures, just above the 2 million required for independent candidates, by the January 16 deadline for submitting applications for the March 2 presidential elections.

The Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) should finish checking the first selection of signatures in support of Kasyanov and Andrei Bogdanov, leader of the Democratic Party of Russia, later Tuesday.

Nikolai Konkin, the CEC's secretary, pointed to problems on Monday related to insufficient information about those who collected the signatures on Kasyanov's behalf in some regions. He said the serious violation could result in all signatures in support of his candidature being declared invalid.

Kasyanov's support team has described the prosecutors' statements as political pressure.

"We know about the Mari-El story, which has lasted for a week already. We consider it political pressure," Kasyanov's spokesperson Yelena Dikun said.

However, Kasyanov's supporters have already arrived at the CEC to find out more about the violations.

Vyacheslav Nikonov, president of the Politika foundation, expressed doubts about Kasyanov's registration and said the candidate had initially had little chance.

"Kasyanov certainly has money, but he lacks organizational skills," the political analyst said.

Under the law, an independent candidate cannot be registered if more than 5% of the total (2 million) signatures collected are declared fraudulent.

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