Russia rejects new opposition party registration
Russia has refused to register a new liberal political party led by four prominent opposition figures - in effect barring it from upcoming polls.
The People's Freedom Party failed to meet several of the legal requirements, the justice ministry said.
One opposition leader said it was because PM Vladimir Putin's ruling party feared a strong opposition bloc.
Parliamentary elections are due to take place in December, with presidential ones to follow in March.
The move came only days after President Dmitry Medvedev repeated his call for a greater political competition in Russia.
Documents for the party, also known as Parnas, were submitted by former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov, former deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov, and several other politicians last month.
But the justice ministry said it could not accept the application because it contained a number of violations, including listing members who were under age or no longer alive.
"The party's documents contain data about members of the public who died before the party's founding convention on December 13, 2010," the ministry said in a statement.
It also said that Parnas's charter did not provide for a rotation of its leadership as required by a new law.
However, Kremlin critics have said authorities use various technicalities to deny opposition parties registration.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was "disappointed" by Russia's decision.
"We are troubled by reports of pressure from authorities in the regions designed to intimidate Parnas supporters, prompting them to resign positions or disavow their signatures on required lists," she said in a statement.
Mr Nemtsov, one of the group's founders, accused Russia's ruling party of being "deadly afraid" of the opposition.
"I am not surprised. I can actually state the following: there will be no opposition (parties) in the ballot papers at all," he said.
"[The authorities] have actually made a major political mistake. Now the country and the world know that our elections are nothing but a farce. I don't think that these elections would be considered honest, transparent and legitimate both in our country and the world. And everything is pretty clear about these elections six months ahead of them."