Russia 090313 Basic Political Developments

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Nemtsov in Bid to Be Next Mayor of Sochi

13 March 2009

By Nabi Abdullaev / The Moscow Times

Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov submitted documents Thursday to run for mayor of Sochi, the Black Sea resort that will host the 2014 Winter Olympics.

It was the first bid by the opposition to win a prominent government post since authorities rejected former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov's candidacy for the presidential election in January 2008, saying signatures collected in his support were falsified.

Nemtsov, a Sochi native who served as Nizhny Novgorod governor and then deputy prime minister in the 1990s, said he would not collect signatures but post a cash deposit instead with the city election commission to be registered as a candidate.

He said this would prevent officials from removing him from the race over allegations of fake signatures, a common ploy used to remove opposition candidates and parties from elections.

Nemstov, who leads the Solidarity opposition movement, met with Sochi residents after filing his registration papers.

"I will definitely not steal," he told them, according to Solidarity's Internet blog. "I may make mistakes, I may spoil relations with someone because of my temper, but I will not steal."

Calls to Nemtsov's cell phone as well as that of his spokeswoman went unanswered Thursday afternoon.

The mayoral election will be held April 26. The incumbent mayor, Vladimir Afanasenkov, resigned in October citing poor health after being elected with more than 80 percent of the vote in June. He was backed by United Russia, the ruling party led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

United Russia has not backed a candidate for the election.

Three other contenders have applied to run: local businessman Pavel Yemelyanenko, retired military officer Sergei Bernasovsky and the head of the St. Petersburg-based Airlen airline, Nikolai Kuznetsov. Local Communists have said they will nominate a candidate before a March 26 deadline.

The next Sochi mayor will have a strong say over how the government will spend billions of dollars to build infrastructure for the Olympics. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, who oversees the preparations for the event, said recently that the Olympics budget amounts to more than 200 billion rubles ($5.7 billion).

The Sochi vote could be a test for Solidarity, a loose umbrella opposition group formed in December. After popular elections for governors were cancelled in 2004, mayoral elections allow the opposition perhaps its only chance to participate in big politics.

Meanwhile, an opposition group linked to Solidarity, The Other Russia, held unauthorized rallies for a "Day of Dissent" in several cities on Thursday, demanding Putin's resignation. One protester was detained in St. Petersburg.

Litvinenko suspect Lugovoi may run for Sochi mayor

MOSCOW, March 13 (RIA Novosti) - The main suspect in the Alexander Litvinenko murder case, Russian MP Andrei Lugovoi, may run for mayor in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, a senior Russian MP said on Friday.

"The Liberal Democrats consider Andrei Lugovoi the movement's leading candidate for the Sochi mayor elections," said Igor Lebedev, the leader of the ultra-nationalist LDPR faction in the Russian parliament.

Lebedev said the party still had two weeks to choose its candidate for the election, scheduled for April 26. Sochi will host the 2014 Winter Olympics and the next mayor is likely to play a major role in the redevelopment of the city for the showpiece international event.

Former Russian security officer Litvinenko died of radioactive poisoning in London on November 23, 2006. British investigators accused agent-turned-businessman Lugovoi of the murder, and demanded his extradition, sparking a major diplomatic row.

Moscow refuses to hand over Lugovoi, who has repeatedly denied involvement in the murder, citing lack of evidence and Russian legislation, which does not allow extradition of Russian citizens to other countries.

Lugovoi, 42, was elected to parliament from the LDPR in 2007. Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky named Lugovoi as number two on the party list two months before the parliamentary elections.

In November last year, the supreme council of the LDPR appointed Lugovoi as the party's supervisor in Russia's Far Eastern Primorye Territory, the Kamchatka Territory and the Irkutsk Region.

The LDPR is the third largest party in the State Duma after United Russia and the Communist Party.

Other candidates for Sochi mayor include former deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov, local businessman Pavel Yemelyanenko, retired military officer Sergei Bernasovsky, and the head of the St. Petersburg-based Airlen airline Nikolai Kuznetsov.

The next Sochi mayor will oversee construction of infrastructure for the Olympics and most likely play a major role in the management of the sums involved. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, who oversees the preparations for the event, recently said that the Olympics budget amounts to more than 200 billion rubles ($5.7 billion).

Gryzlov's Son Joins United Russia

13 March 2009

The Moscow Times

The son of State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov has decided to join United Russia after losing his independent bid for a seat on a St. Petersburg district council, the party said Thursday.

"We need new ideas and fresh forces, and I am very glad that Dmitry Gryzlov has expressed his readiness to work with us," Vadim Tulpanov, leader of St. Petersburg's branch of United Russia, said in a statement.

In the run-up to the March 1 vote in St. Petersburg, the election commission in the district where Dmitry Gryzlov was running found that 100 percent of the signatures collected in his support were falsified and disqualified him as a candidate. But the city election commission returned him to the race. Gryzlov reportedly placed eighth in the vote.

Boris Gryzlov was the chief of United Russia until Prime Minister Vladimir Putin assumed the post in April.

Gryzlov remains No. 2 in the party and heads its Duma faction.

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