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Russian opposition parties link up ahead of 2016 polls


Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

The marginalised Russian opposition parties of slain Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov and arch Putin foe Alexei Navalny have announced they will form an alliance for legislative polls in 2016.

Nemtsov’s RPR-Parnas and Navalny’s Party of Progress said Friday they are joining forces to put forward joint candidates at local elections this year and parliamentary polls next year.

In a statement the two parties accused officials of having established an authoritarian system under President Vladimir Putin that had wiped out opposition, wrecked the economy and plunged the country into a conflict in Ukraine.

The fatal shooting of Nemtsov just yards from the Kremlin on February 27 had shown definitively that rule of law had broken down, the statement said.

The two parties said they were therefore coming together “on a joint platform that does not accept lies, corruption, aggression,” said a joint statement from Navalny and ex-prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov, a co-leader of Nemtsov’s party.

They said they expected other opposition parties to join their platform.

Former oligarch turned Kremlin critic, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, said his Open Russia rights network “support(s) the decision of RPR-Parnas and Progress Party to form a coalition,” even if it can not directly join its electoral activities.

“Open Russia is a social movement, and therefore we cannot have our own list in elections. We support the list of democratic candidates. And we will do what we can to help make the forthcoming elections democratic,” Khodorkovsky said on the group’s Internet site.

Russia’s beleaguered opposition has been sidelined during Putin’s 15 years at the helm, and does not have any representation in the Duma parliament.

The brazen murder of former deputy prime minister Nemtsov was the highest profile killing of an opposition figure during Putin’s time in power.

Nemtsov’s opposition allies accused the Kremlin of having had a hand in the killing, but the authorities deny any involvement and have arrested five men on suspicion of carrying out a contract hit.


– ‘Extremist calls’ –


Open Russia’s offices in Moscow were raided Thursday by police just as Putin was starting his annual televised question and answer session that usually lasts for several hours, and dominates all media coverage.

Open Russia later published the police warrant used to search for “materials containing extremist calls” which the pro-European movement allegedly prepared ahead of a protest planned for Sunday, but which authorities refused to authorise.

Navalny is a 38-year-old anti-corruption blogger who became the charismatic leader of the opposition movement against Putin during huge protests in 2011-12.

He was then hit with a string of corruption charges that he claimed were politically motivated, and held for months under house arrest.

Earlier this month, close Navalny ally Vladimir Ashurkov told Moscow’s independent TV channel Dozhd that British authorities had approved his request for asylum after he fled Russia to escape what he said were fabricated embezzlement charges being used to politically persecute him for his opposition to the Putin regime.


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