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    PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN GETS UNDERWAY

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    MOSCOW, FEBRUARY 12 (RIA Novosti) - A nationwide presidential election campaign involving this country's mass-media bodies is to begin today, February 12.

    Russian legislation states expressly that the entire election campaign shall last exactly one month, ending at 12.00 a.m. Moscow time March 13, that is, exactly 24 hours before presidential elections.

    Six presidential candidates would be expected to take advantage of their right to conduct an electronic mass-media election campaign. For his own part, the incumbent head of state declined to use free TV prime time.

    Moreover, presidential candidate Sergei Mironov, who was nominated by the Russian Party of Life, said the other day that he won't take part in this week's TV debates, explaining his decision by overwork. (Mironov serves as Speaker of the Federation Council, which is the Russian Parliament's upper house - Ed.) It seems that yet another presidential candidate, i.e. Ivan Rybkin, whose mysterious disappearance caused a real uproar several days ago, will apparently take a break. Talking to the Ekho Moskvy radio station live February 11, Rybkin noted that he will decide on the expediency of continuing the election race.

    All three state-run TV channels, i.e. ORT, Rossia and TV-Tsentr, will allot 60 minutes of free prime time to each presidential contender on weekdays. Free TV prime time is to total 60 hours, with joint TV debates accounting for 50 percent of this sum total.

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