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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Physicist Joins Race for Duma From Moscow

Adding to the list of unusual candidates in December's election, celebrated Russian physicist Yevgeny Velikhov announced Thursday that he is running for the State Duma from his native district in northwestern Moscow.

Velikhov, the director of the Kurchatov Institute and a former Supreme Soviet deputy, said that his concern about the state of industry, education, science and the environment in Russia has driven him to seek a seat in the lower house of parliament.

"All that convinced me to return to the deputy's job after a long break," Velikhov told a news conference Thursday.

He said he will run from the Tushinsky single-mandate district, where his institute is located and where he lives.

Velikhov, whose research in the physics of plasma and guided thermonuclear synthesis is known throughout the world, was a close ally of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and his leading consultant on scientific and technical acceleration.

Two weeks ago, Velikhov seemed to be subtly edging back into the political realm, without announcing his candidacy.

He and two other prominent Russian scientists, Alexander Prokhorov and Nikolai Dolezhal, wrote an open letter Oct. 28 to President Boris Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton, criticizing the United States for attacking Russia for its economic and political failures in recent years.

Both Russia and its "U.S. partner" should take the blame for these failures, the letter said. It urged the countries to take "joint responsibility for the aftermath, recognize mistakes and attempt to rectify them."

The platform Velikhov revealed Thursday revealed nothing particularly original.

"I'm primarily concerned with the problems of economic growth," he said, adding that much needs to be done in the sphere of health and education as well.

"We need to have a law that will help us to clear Russia of the radioactive consequences of the Cold War," Velikhov said.

Earlier this year, Velikhov was sharply criticized by environmentalists for supporting a proposal to import nuclear waste from Western countries to Russia for reprocessing and further storage.

Though planning to run as an independent candidate, Velikhov made it clear that his sympathies lie with the Fatherland-All Russia bloc, headed by Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov and former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov.

Velikhov has been the head of the Kurchatov Institute since 1988. Last year he won Luzhkov's support to move the institute's seven reactors out of a densely populated neighborhood in northwestern Moscow. The mayor promised to help finance the move.