'I believe that televised debates by candidates has turned into its opposite in Russia,' Ivan Rybkin, a presidential candidate, declared Thursday during a telephone interview with radio station Ekho Moskvy. In view of the current president's refusal to take part in the debates, they have 'lost all their original meaning,' he said. 'But I still want to take part in the TV debates,' he said. 'I don't know why the Central Election Commission has forbidden that. It seems to me that one can take part in public debates by telephone or any other kind of link.'
Rybkin said he considers Vladimir Putin to 'be breaking the law when he arranges mass meetings with trusted supporters that are then shown on state-owned television channels.' 'It all makes sense in the logic of an election being conducted with an awful trampling of the law,' he said.
The candidate said his own campaign staff would operate fully within the law. 'We will show our TV ads on channels that will accept them and seek newspaper space for our printed material,' he said. 'Although people we've worked with for many years are fearful of continuing to do so.'
Rybkin made clear that he has no intention of naming a representative to stand in for him on TV debates. 'One has to participate in the debates personally. It's not something that can be left to someone else,' he said. Rybkin also said he was exploring possible legal challenges to the Election Commission's decision to bar participation in the debates by televised hookup.