- The Washington Times - Friday, February 13, 2004

LONDON — Russian presidential candidate Ivan Rybkin said yesterday he had been drugged and made the subject of a compromising videotape while being held by unknown captors in Ukraine.

Liberal candidate Mr. Rybkin said he intended to actively pursue his presidential campaign, but that he would do so from London because of fear for his safety.

Mr. Rybkin initially said he had simply been taking a break in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, when he surfaced there earlier this week after his family and campaign staff had reported him missing.

He told a packed news conference in London yesterday that he was lured to Kiev on the pretext that he could meet with Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov for talks aimed at bringing peace to the war-ravaged region.

Mr. Rybkin has promised an end to the Chechen hostilities within six months and a return of the breakaway state to the Russian Federation if he is elected to replace President Vladimir Putin at the polls on March 14.

Mr. Putin is expected to easily beat all challengers, including Mr. Rybkin.

The candidate told reporters that he felt sleepy after being given sandwiches and tea at a Kiev apartment, where he was taken for the purported meeting on Feb. 6.

He said he remembers nothing more until he regained consciousness in a different apartment, where two armed men told him that it was Tuesday — four days later — and that he was still in Kiev.

The men showed him newspapers and video reports of his disappearance — as well as a compromising videotape that appeared to have been made during his stay. He would not say what occurred in the video, but said it was made by “perverts.”

“I don’t know who kidnapped me, but I know for whose benefit it was done,” he said. “I believe it was mainly done for the benefit of those who seek to compromise or humiliate the opposition, which is under difficult pressure from the government.”

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