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    CRIMINAL CASE OF RYBKIN'S DISAPPEARANCE LAUNCHED AND DROPPED

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    MOSCOW, February 9, 2004 (RIA Novosti) -- The district prosecutor's office of Moscow launched a criminal case about the disappearance of presidential candidate Ivan Rybkin but the city prosecutor's office then dropped this case. Rybkin's wife Albina lodged an application about his disappearance with the police on Sunday.

    According to the Prosecutor General's Office of the Russian Federation, the application has not been fully checked yet, and therefore it is still "premature" to open a criminal case.

    Rybkin's wife told the police that he had last been seen on Thursday. He left home at about 7.00 p.m. and never returned. The search has not produced any results so far. Last Saturday the former speaker of Russia's State Duma was officially registered by the Central Election Commission as a presidential candidate for the March 14th elections.

    The criminal case of his disappearance was opened by the Presnya prosecutor's office of Moscow pursuant to the "murder" article. A spokesman for the Presnya prosecutor's office told RIA Novosti that it was "routine practice" in the cases when an investigation into the disappearance of a person begins. Depending on the results of the investigation, the case may be re-qualified to a different article.

    According to the Moscow police, the search for Ivan Rybkin is going on and is "specially controlled" by top officials of the city's interior affairs department.

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