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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mayor's Duma Ally Founds New Party

Former Federal Border Service chief Andrei Nikolayev presided over the founding meeting Wednesday of his new political movement, which is considered a potential vehicle for the presidential ambitions of his political ally -- Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov.

Nikolayev, who won a seat in the State Duma on April 12 from a southwest Moscow district, has made no secret of his alliance with the powerful Moscow mayor. The movement, led by the respected soldier who resigned from his post last December, plans to be a force in upcoming Duma and presidential elections.

Speakers at the conference described it as a center-left or social democratic movement that believes in a strong state and protectionist economics -- a platform remarkably like that of Luzhkov.

The movement, called the Union of Popular Rule and Labor, blended left-wing and nationalist rhetoric. Its literature has the famous Soviet Realist statue "The Worker and the Collective-Farm Girl" on the cover, and the movement's symbol is a hammer crossed by a sickle-shaped sheaf of grain.

The conference, held in a trade-union hall, also had a Soviet air, as delegates voted unanimously by holding up little red cards, and the two dozen speakers put several delegates to sleep near the end.

Soviet nostalgia was blended with economic nationalism as several speakers denounced the International Monetary Fund, saying it would enslave Russia by imposing economic restructuring as a condition of financial aid. "We will be on our knees before our creditors," a speaker from Karelia said.

Nikolayev said the country was in a "systemic crisis." He repeated tsarist Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin's words that "what we need is a great Russia" and emphasized the need for social unity.

He discouraged supporters who referred several times from the podium to the "party of Nikolayev."

"I don't want a party of Nikolayev," he said. "I want a party of the majority."

Duma Deputy Telman Gdlyan, a member of the conference's organizing committee, said the country was "fed up with the extreme left and the extreme right" and needed a more centrist group. Otherwise, "we are headed for a disaster from which no one can profit," he said.

Other speakers, not all of whom were members of the new group, included eye surgeon and Duma Deputy Svyatoslav Fyodorov, legal expert Oleg Rumyantsev and Duma Deputy Alexei Podberyozkin -- a leading ideologist of the blend of communism and nationalism adopted by the Russian Communist Party.

There were representatives from one of the Cossack movements and a priest from the Russian Orthodox Church, who passed along the good wishes of Patriarch Alexy II but reminded delegates of the church's rule of staying out of electoral politics.

Luzkhov, a likely presidential candidate in 2000, was not present and only sent a note of congratulations.

But that is because he doesn't want to offend President Boris Yeltsin, said political analyst Nikolai Petrov of the Moscow Carnegie Center.

"On the one hand, [Luzhkov] is actively conducting preparations," Petrov said, "and on the other, he does not want to openly announce this, because he fears a negative reaction from Yeltsin."

Yeltsin has given conflicting signals over whether he intends to run. He may try to anoint a successor.

Although Nikolayev has occasionally been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate, Petrov said "I think that is highly unlikely."

Other potential contenders include Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Krasnoyarsk region Governor Alexander Lebed, and liberal Yabloko party leader Grigory Yavlinsky.