MOSCOW -- The Russian opposition leader and chess legend Garry Kasparov told journalists on Wednesday he was abandoning his presidential election campaign.
"My electoral campaign finishes tomorrow," Kasparov said, blaming problems organising an official meeting of supporters to put him forward as a candidate as required by Russian law.
"In all Moscow we have not been able to find a hall where our supporters could meet," he said.
Kasparov, considered by many to have been the world's greatest ever chess player, heads a loose-knit movement opposed to President Vladimir Putin, The Other Russia.
The country holds a presidential election on March 2 after which Putin is to step down, with opposition forces seen as having virtually no chance of victory.
Kasparov has accused Putin of crushing democratic opposition through the Kremlin's dominance of the media, election laws that sideline smaller parties and heavy-handed police tactics in dispersing demonstrations.
On Wednesday he said his movement had encountered problems obtaining premises for a meeting officially required for his candidacy to be put forward in time for a December 18 deadline.
"We pay and the people agree. There are no problems. And then they call us to say they are refusing, can't give us the hall any more," Kasparov said on the sidelines of a gathering of Russian reformist parties and non-governmental organisations. "They refuse to give us the hall for technical reasons."
"The Other Russia is not fighting for power but for real elections to take place," he said.
Election law requires that a candidate who is not nominated by a political party with seats in parliament must get the support of an "initiative group" meeting of at least 500 people.
The election commission must be informed five days in advance of the initiative group meeting, meaning the meeting cannot take place later than December 13.
Touring around Russia, Kasparov has frequently been refused venues to speak and has blamed this on interference by the security services.
He earlier described a December 2 parliamentary election ahead of next year's polls as a "farce," citing allegations of vote-rigging and unequal access to the media.
He spent five days in jail last month after a court found him guilty of public order offences at a rally.
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