Belykh Says SPS Negotiating With Kremlin

Three senior officials with pro-business party Union of Right Forces, including 1990s privatization architect Anatoly Chubais, have been in negotiations with the Kremlin for several months, the party's acting leader said Monday.

Chubais, former party leader Nikita Belykh and acting party head Leonid Gozman have been holding talks with the Kremlin since April, Gozman said.

Belykh announced Friday that he was stepping down as the leader of Union of Right Forces, or SPS, over differences with other party leaders about cooperating with the Kremlin.

Gozman denied a Kommersant report Monday that the discussions concerned the creation of a new pro-business party under the de facto control of the Kremlin. "There is no possibility of the party being controlled by the Kremlin," Gozman said.

He also denied any possibility that SPS could join United Russia, whose leader is Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, as the Agrarian Party did recently because of financial difficulties.

A Kremlin spokeswoman said Monday that no one was available to comment.

The fate of SPS is to be decided at an extraordinary meeting of party leaders Thursday.