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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kremlin Takes Stock After Duma Boycott




Acting President Vladimir Putin maintained his silence Thursday on the bitter dispute that erupted among State Duma factions this week - despite the widespread assumption that the presidential administration provoked it.


Both the traditionally oppositionist Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces, a Kremlin-allied group until joining the boycott of the Duma on Tuesday, reiterated that they wanted an answer from Putin.


Both parties were left out of a deal in which the Kremlin and the Communists agreed essentially to split up the Duma, with the Communists getting the speaker's post and sharing the choice committee chairmanships with Unity, the Kremlin's party.


"From our point of view, there still remains an open question about the position of the head of the government and the acting president, Vladimir Putin," Yabloko Deputy Sergei Ivanenko said.


Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov said Wednesday that in a private conversation, Putin said he had not expected such a reaction.


But on Thursday Union of Right Forces leader Sergei Kiriyenko said, "I'm interested in Putin's opinion, not Seleznyov's. You've confused something."


The two factions met with fellow boycotter Fatherland-All Russia in the offices of its leader, Yevgeny Primakov.


Primakov is considered one of the likely reasons Unity decided to make a deal with the Communists. An enemy of the Kremlin, Primakov's potential bid for the presidency in the March 26 election might have been a threat to Putin. An alliance of Fatherland-All Russia and the Communists could have given him the speakership - and a good position from which to run a campaign.


But what is puzzling about the Communist-Unity alliance is why no room was made for the Union of Right Forces, which has supported Putin. If they had been included in negotiations and offered one or two more committees - they were only offered one - they might have stayed within the fold.


Many analysts and newspapers say the Kremlin simply underestimated the reaction.


But another possibility is that one of the Kremlin's warring clans wants to strike a blow at the Union of Right Forces and its backer, Kremlin insider Anatoly Chubais. Chubais' rival, tycoon Boris Berezovsky, has taken credit for inventing Unity.


Nikolai Petrov of the Moscow Carnegie Center said it was possible that the people behind Unity knew full well what to expect and were aiming to make a point to Chubais' people.


Seleznyov and Unity faction leader Boris Gryzlov both said the two committee posts reserved for Fatherland-All Russia and the Union of Right Forces will be given away next week to more cooperative deputies if the boycott continues.


Meanwhile, Russia's Regions continued to strive for the best of both worlds. Its members walked out of the first Duma session with the other dissenters, but they did not join the boycotters' coordinating council and attended Wednesday's session. Interfax quoted leader Oleg Morozov as saying Russia's Regions would continue to attend but would not vote on important issues.