Grigory Yavlinsky, former leader of ELDR member party, YABLOKO, has been officially barred from running in the upcoming Russian presidential election. The Central Electoral Commission announced yesterday that Yavlinsky's candidature is invalid as a result of perceived technical irregularities in the way the signatures of support, a requirement for participation in the election, were presented to the Commission.

Commenting on the refusal to accept Yavlinsky's registration for the 4 March election, ELDR Party President, Sir Graham Watson MEP stated, "this is clearly a politically motivated move designed to ensure Vladimir Putin has an easy ride back into the presidency and shows a blatant disregard of democratic principles and international standards for free and fair elections.

It seems that Putin and his cronies have learnt nothing from the protests that have been taking place since last December's parliamentary elections. This is very worrying and undermines the authority and legitimacy of the future Russian president."

Grigory Yavlinsky said that the position taken by the Electoral Commission denies thousands of people the opportunity to express their views freely. "Their refusal means that all the people who do not agree with what has been happening in Russia, the people who want a different perspective - an open, democratic, European and modern perspective - will not be allowed to participate in the elections by means of this political decision."

An opposition march, organised by YABLOKO, will take place in Moscow on 4 February to demonstrate against the Electoral Commission's decision to reject Yavlinsky's candidature.