Nemtsov Walks Away From His Party

Union of Right Forces co-founder Boris Nemtsov has "suspended" his membership in the party in an apparent attempt to spare party colleagues from possible political reprisals as a result of a report criticizing President Vladimir Putin that he co-authored.

Nemtsov announced the decision Tuesday at the presentation of the report, titled "Putin. The Results," which portrays severe deterioration in the country's political, economic and social environment since Putin took office.

Nemtsov refused to comment on the reason for his decision but hinted that internal party politics were not involved.

"My relationship with the party leadership is good," he said.

He also dismissed the idea that his departure was tied to the report, but SPS election strategist Anton Bakov said in a telephone interview Tuesday that Nemtsov "didn't want to expose party members to attack," after the critical report on Putin was published.

"[Nemtsov] believes that this is a period of severe political repressions, and he doesn't want these to harm his friends and soulmates," Bakov said.

Bakov said Nemtsov was "surely not" leaving the party for good.

"This means that we are not responsible for his 'extremist' activities, but spiritually he is with us," Bakov said. "He remains our leader."

SPS leader Nikita Belykh said in a phone interview Tuesday that Nemtsov's departure "will undoubtedly have an effect on the party," although he declined to comment on the cause for the announcement.

Belykh said he respected Nemtsov, who he said handed in his resignation Saturday, "as a politician and a friend."

Nemtsov, who was first deputy prime minister in 1997 and 1998, co-authored the report with Vladimir Milov, the former deputy energy minister and currently president of the Institute of Energy Policy.