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Bookies taking bets on Russia's presidential runners

Foreign bookmakers are taking bets on the upcoming 2008 presidential elections in Russia. In a pool called “To Replace Putin” Unibet are offering 24 people as potential candidates for the presidency.

The firm's management says most gamblers are not Russians, and they are gambling for fun – usually something about $US 20.

First Deputy Prime Ministers Sergey Ivanov and Dmitry Medvedev top the list of favourites, while Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov comes in third. Fourth is Boris Gryzlov, the leader of the United Russia Party, and the speaker of the State Duma.

Among the rank outsiders is Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Vice Chairman of the State Duma, and Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former head of Yukos oil company, who is serving an 8-year prison sentence in Siberia.

Roman Abramovich, Governor of Chukotka in Russia's Far East and owner of Chelsea football club, is at the bottom of the list.

Even the current president's wife Ludmila Putina is on the list – at number 23. Using Hillary Clinton's example the bookmakers say she might become an influential figure in the elections.