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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kiriyenko Set to End Walkout

The leader of one of the opposition parties boycotting the State Duma agreed in principle Tuesday for his group to return, hours after the Duma speaker gave deputies an ultimatum to end their protest or be shut out of the parliamentary leadership.

Sergei Kiriyenko, leader of the Union of Right Forces, said following a meeting with acting President Vladimir Putin and Boris Gryzlov of the Unity party that he had reached an agreement that would allow his party to return to the Duma, the lower house of parliament. The proposal is to be considered by the Duma's agenda-setting council Thursday.

Lawmakers from three liberal and centrist parties walked out of the Duma last week to protest a deal between the chamber's two largest groups, the Communists and Unity, a pro-government bloc.

Under the deal, Communist Gennady Seleznyov was elected Duma speaker and the two parties divided control of most of the chamber's posts between them.

The deal raised questions about Putin's commitment to democratic reforms.

Unity labels itself as centrist and its willingness to work with the Communists alarmed many Russians.

Putin has insisted he played no part in the dispute. But it appeared the Kremlin was happy with the re-election of Seleznyov, who cooperated with the administration of former President Boris Yeltsin, who was anti-Communist.

Seleznyov said Tuesday the minor parties had two days to accept an offer of several committee posts or be frozen out of the Duma leadership.

"On Thursday, we must finally settle all questions on the committees and deputy speakers," he said.

Seleznyov said up to three new committees could be created, with the chairmanships going to the opposition groups, in addition to posts they had already been offered.

Initially, two of the protesting factions, the Union of Right Forces and Fatherland-All Russia, were offered one committee chairmanship each; the third, Yabloko, was offered none.

Kiriyenko said his party had rejected the idea of dividing committee posts but would return after receiving a pledge that Unity would support some of his party's projects.

There were signs earlier Tuesday that the protesters' unity was breaking down. The Russia's Regions group, some of whose members had joined in the parliamentary walkout, accepted the chairmanship of the budget committee and one of the deputy speaker's posts.

Grigory Yavlinsky, head of Yabloko, said the minority could not afford to leave the Duma solely in the hands of the majority.

"We will not cede the State Duma to [Vladimir] Zhirinovsky, the Kremlin and the Communists," Yavlinsky said, Itar-Tass reported. "This is a gray force that cannot pass the laws the country needs."