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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lebed Set to Launch New Political Party

Ex-national security tsar Alexander Lebed, fresh from a trip to the United States, announced Thursday that he is preparing to launch a political party, creating a base for a potential gubernatorial run and possibly paving the way for an alliance with Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov.

"A charter and a program of the party are currently being prepared," Lebed spokesman Alexander Barkhatov told Interfax. "Lebed is meeting with businessmen and different politicians every day."

Barkhatov said Lebed, who was ousted last month as Security Council secretary, will decide whether he will run for governor of the Tula region "before mid-December." The retired general's office had previously denied rumors that Lebed would pursue the region's governorship.

Prior to his appointment to his national security post, Lebed held the Tula seat in parliament's lower house, the State Duma. He is tremendously popular there, and won the parliamentary race by a wide margin.

Lebed seems to be rethinking his political strategy, which until recently, say analysts, was based almost entirely on his assumption that President Boris Yeltsin would not return to the Kremlin following his heart bypass operation.

"He was absolutely sure that Yeltsin was about to die and was banking on early presidential elections," said Andrei Piontkowsky of the Moscow-based Center for Strategic Studies.

According to Piontkowsky and other analysts, the gubernatorial run would be Lebed's most logical move, and a win would give him the media exposure he would need for a future presidential bid.

Unlike his previous position -- secretary of Yeltsin's advisory Security Council -- the gubernatorial seat would allow Lebed to maintain independence from the Kremlin.

It could also provide him with an opportunity to follow through on the anti-crime and anti-corruption efforts which were key elements in his presidential campaign earlier this year.

"This would be very attractive to public opinion," said Sergei Markov, of the Moscow office of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace..

Piontkowsky said he doubted Lebed could form a political party, because he has proved himself unable to "work as part of a team." His former attempt at party-building, the Congress of Russian Communities, performed disappointingly in last year's parliamentary elections, and fell apart when Lebed and his party co-chairman, Yury Skokov, could not agree on who was to play the leading role.

An alliance with Luzhkov could be the answer to many of Lebed's problems. During his U.S. trip and, most recently, in an interview aired Sunday on Russian television's "Zerkalo" program, Lebed said that such an alliance was "possible."

Luzhkov was highly critical of the peace agreement Lebed reached with Chechen separatists in August. On the other hand, said Markov, the two share a similar "moderate nationalism." They also have common enemies -- in particular, presidential chief of staff Anatoly Chubais.

But the best arguments for such a union are practical, not ideological.

"Lebed is very weak when it comes to money, but Luzhkov is very good," said Markov. "Luzhkov has very weak support in regions outside Moscow, but Lebed has a very strong position. Lebed is very weak in terms of management -- the day-to-day running of things -- but Luzhkov is very strong in this."