Europe

Putin's rivals face pressure, biased coverage

Feb. 7, 2012: Russian Prime Minister and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin addresses election activists in Moscow.

Feb. 7, 2012: Russian Prime Minister and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin addresses election activists in Moscow.  (AP2012)

MOSCOW-- European election observers say that presidential hopefuls running against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin face "biased" reports by Kremlin-controlled media and constant government pressure.

Tiny Cox, who heads the Council of Europe mission to Russia, said Saturday that all four candidates complain that Putin's government is using its "administrative resources" to influence voters, while Russian television extensively covers Putin's activities.

The candidates are Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov, ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, socialist Just Russia leader Sergei Mironov and billionaire tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov.

Other politicians have been denied registration in the race on technicalities.

Despite recent opposition rallies, Putin seems certain to win the March 4 vote.

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