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Russian journalist who once 'confused' Putin to run for president

VLADIVOSTOK, December 11 (RIA Novosti) - A Russian journalist who once 'confused' President Vladimir Putin at a Kremlin news conference announced on Tuesday that she intended to stand for the presidency.

Maria Solovyenko, editor-in-chief of the Narodnoye Veche newspaper, based in Russia's Far East, said she had applied to the local election commission and that her action group would hold a meeting on December 16.

"Russian law allows any citizen of age to run for the presidency, so why not?" she said in an interview.

"I would also like to check whether the process of democratic elections is effective in Russia and whether or not an ordinary citizen could become president."

The reporter said she was ready to challenge First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, nominated as a presidential candidate by United Russia on Monday, to a political debate.

"Once I confused the president himself, it won't take a great effort to confuse a presidential candidate," she added.

At a news conference in the Kremlin on February 1, 2007, Solovyenko called Putin "unrivaled" when asking him about corruption. Her reaction to the president's "You confuse me," was: "I am very pleased, a woman should confuse a man..."

Solovyenko enjoys a reputation as a no-compromise journalist, and writes much about corruption among local government bodies.

Medvedev, 42, was nominated by the ruling United Russia party and three other pro-Kremlin parties on Monday afternoon. President Vladimir Putin also threw his substantial political weight behind the chairman of the board of the Gazprom energy giant.

The Central Election Commission has already received 20 applications from individual presidential candidates, and reacted calmly to news of journalist's bid.

Solovyenko also made an attempt to stand in Russia's recent December 2 parliamentary polls, but her registration was annulled by a local court due to "an excessively-funded election campaign." The journalist has appealed against the court ruling to the Russian Prosecutor General's Office.

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