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Russian candidate: I was kidnapped

Rybkin, right, with his campaign manager at Moscow airport Tuesday.
Rybkin, right, with his campaign manager at Moscow airport Tuesday.

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The disappearance of Russian presidential candidate Ivan Rybkin was
A publicity stunt
A misunderstanding
Something more sinister
Ivan Rybkin

LONDON, England (CNN) -- A Russian presidential candidate who disappeared for five days says he was kidnapped and drugged by captors who lured him to the Ukranian capital Kiev.

Ivan Rybkin, 57, told a news conference Friday in London that he would not return to Moscow until after the March 14 election.

"I will remain abroad in order to be able to tell the truth about Russia," he said.

"My decision to stay out of Russia and my public stand on the situation within my country is the only realistic guarantee of the security of my family.... Now even the most inconspicuous accident occurring to my family would immediately be seen as the regime taking revenge on me."

Rybkin, a fierce Kremlin critic who is running as an independent candidate against President Vladimir Putin, resurfaced in Kiev after disappearing from his Moscow home February 5. He returned to Moscow Tuesday.

He said he had been lured under false pretences to Kiev, where he said he was kidnapped, given tea, felt sleepy and passed out. He said woke up in another apartment five days later.

Rybkin was later told he had been part of a "special operation" and was shown a videotape. He said he was on the tape and the content was "revolting," he but refused to describe it.

"I don't know who did it but I know who benefited from this," he said. "After what happened in Kiev, I'm convinced that this election is a game without rules and it can end for me without ever beginning. That is why I will continue my campaign from abroad and then we shall see."

Asked by reporters Friday if he had proof of his claims of being kidnapped, Rybkin said: "It's up to the authorities to investigate."

Initially, Rybkin -- a former speaker of Parliament and national security adviser to former President Boris Yeltsin -- explained his absence as just a rest from campaigning. But after returning to Moscow, he suggested a more sinister motive.

"If I had started to say what I'm saying to you now ... it is possible that we wouldn't be having this conversation," Rybkin told Echo of Moscow radio.

The disappearance caused a political sensation, and the mystery deepened when prosecutors launched a murder probe and then canceled it. Russia's Federal Security Service also launched an investigation.

CNN Correspondent Matthew Chance contributed to this report

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