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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Squabbles Mar Meeting Of Reformists' Alliance

The pitfalls in the process of attempting to unite Russia's reformist forces gaped wide open Tuesday, when a press conference called to announce a new alliance between the grassroots Democratic Russia movement and the Economic Freedom Party descended into petty squabbling.

The alliance was hailed by its founders as the first step toward the much-heralded conference of reformist forces that its organizers hope will put forward a single pro-democracy candidate in the1996 presidential election.

Both Democratic Russia and the Economic Freedom Party are high-profile groups that now enjoy only marginal political influence, and though their leaders said Tuesday that they were holding consultations with reformist bigwigs such as Sergei Shakhrai and Grigory Yavlinsky, both these politicians have been cautious about entering any binding alliances.

But Democratic Russia co-chair Lev Ponomaryov said Tuesday the unification of reformist parties has to start somewhere.

"We are simply sick of waiting," he said.

Economic Freedom Party leader Konstantin Borovoi admitted that such alliances had rarely worked in Russia when it came to elections, but he insisted that the new one would be different.

"We will try to force each other to follow our agreements," he said.

But minutes later, the MMM investment scandal reared its ugly head as leaders of the two groups aired opposing views on whether MMM chief Sergei Mavrodi should be freed from jail where he is kept on charges of tax evasion.

Democratic Russia co-chair Galina Starovoitova said Mavrodi's misdeeds did not warrant such harsh punishment. She said she thinks he should be released.

But Borovoi called the MMM pyramid "sheer banditry" and said Mavrodi belongs in prison.