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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Shokhin Ousted As NDR Leader

Our Home Is Russia party leader Viktor Chernomyrdin spent Monday searching for a coherent strategy and salvation from political oblivion after he ousted Alexander Shokhin, the leader of his party's parliamentary faction.

Chernomyrdin met Monday with Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov - whose unofficial campaign to succeed President Boris Yeltsin is gathering steam - to propose they pool efforts in next year's parliamentary elections.

Asked afterward by journalists if he was willing to recognize Luzhkov's new Otechestvo movement as the new "party of power," the former prime minister responded, "with pleasure," Interfax reported.

The populist mayor, though, made it clear that he has little interest in associating with the leader of the past "party of power," which has largely been blamed for Russia's current dire straits. Speaking before the meeting, Luzhkov said on NTV television that there would be no agreement on an alliance.

Chernomyrdin tried to put their meeting in a better light, saying he and the mayor had agreed to "meet more often, synchronize our positions and solve problems."

Chernomyrdin also has presidential ambitions, but since he lost his government post in March, he has been losing political weight with catastrophic speed, dragging his party down along with him. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Gazprom, the natural gas monopoly that he used to head, recently withdrew its critical support.

Party members, including about 20 regional governors, have been defecting to Luzhkov's movement amid calls to elect a new leader. Our Home Is Russia was formed in 1995 as an explicitly pro-government party, but lost some of its reason for existing when Chernomyrdin was bounced as prime minister.

Shokhin called on Chernomyrdin to resign as party leader to save it from complete collapse and proposed replacing him with prominent filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov, the chairman of the Cinematographers' Union. Shokhin also was among those urging an alliance with Luzhkov.

Chernomyrdin struck back on Thursday night. At his urging, members of Our Home Is Russia voted 36-4 to dismiss Shokhin as the head of their faction in the State Duma, parliament's lower house. The faction, with 65 seats, is the second largest, after the Communists.

In an interview Sunday on NTV's Itogi news program, Chernomyrdin accused Shokhin of "acquiring his own view of some problems, including on coalitions, blocs, on potential partners of Our Home Is Russia, on the election campaign, elections to the State Duma, the presidential elections."

Shokhin maintained that many deputies voted for his dismissal reluctantly and only because Chernomyrdin insisted that the vote be open. Many of his colleagues, Shokhin said Monday on NTV, told him they were "disgusted with themselves" for voting against him and then turned around and told reporters that he had ruined the faction.

Shokhin, however, played down the personal confrontation with Chernomyrdin, saying that the problem was their different "evaluation of the political situation."

After he was thrown out, Shokhin, the Duma's deputy speaker, immediately quit Our Home Is Russia's faction and said he would "pursue an independent political career." Although his overtures to Luzhkov were among the actions criticized by Chernomyrdin - ironic in light of Chernomyrdin's own meeting with the mayor - Shokhin said he was not going to join Otechestvo because he does not want to "put himself under anybody."

Mikhalkov, also interviewed on Itogi, was skeptical about Shokhin's plans for his political promotion. The film director said he didn't agree to take the post during a telephone conversation with Shokhin, which "should have happened in Chernomyrdin's presence, anyway."

Shokhin's post was filled temporarily by Boris Kuznetsov, 63. Chernomyrdin said the Duma faction would elect a new leader when deputies return from the holiday break.

Vladimir Ryzhkov, a prominent Our Home Is Russia member and first deputy speaker of the Duma, has been named as a likely replacement. He expressed his concern Friday about the faction's future, predicting an exodus of deputies for "absolutely different political motives."

Samara region Governor Konstantin Titov, a prominent Our Home Is Russia member, also voiced his concern.

"If we really want to improve the movement's image, we not only need to change the leader but to develop new approaches to elections," Titov said on Itogi.