Mikhail Kasyanov, a former Putin loyalist who became one of his fiercest critics, has been disqualified from the presidential ballot, reports the BBC. Russia's electoral commission ruled that too many of his supporting signatures were fraudulent—up to 5% is OK. Kasyanov has another theory: "There is no doubt that the decision not to register my candidacy was taken personally by Vladimir Putin."
Although the former prime minister posed no threat to the president's hand-picked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, the Kremlin feared he could embarrass Putin in the election campaign. Earlier this week the electoral commission said it would invite only 70 international observers—less than a quarter of the number who supervised the last presidential ballot. There are now four candidates for president in the March 2 poll.