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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Parties End Boycott of Parliament

Acting President Vladimir Putin gained a boost Thursday from the end of a parliamentary boycott that had threatened to dent his image ahead of the presidential election in March.

Putin's participation in negotiating a promised end on Feb. 9 to three parties' boycott of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, seemed set to solidify his image as a strong leader able to work with the chamber.

The parties walked out in protest of a power-sharing deal between the two largest parties, the Communists and the pro-Putin Unity party, which shut out smaller groups.

Former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov said his Fatherland-All Russia group would return to work if issues raised with Putin during talks Wednesday were resolved, although he did not go into detail.

"We are returning on the ninth. We have now done all that we could do," said Grigory Yavlinsky, the leader of the liberal Yabloko party, another of the rebels.

The dispute had threatened to dent Putin's image as a leader with wide backing from an alliance of centrist and right-leaning parties ahead of the election.

One of the boycotters, the Union of Right Forces, SPS, was backed by Putin during December's Duma election.

SPS leader Sergei Kiriyenko, who also held talks with Putin and a Unity leader earlier this week, said his party wanted to return to work Friday but Feb. 9 had been chosen in solidarity with the other boycotters.

Political and religious freedom are possibly the only rights Russia guarantees to its citizens, the human rights ombudsman said in a newspaper interview published Thursday.

"There is suffering everywhere. ... In general I can say that the human rights situation in Russia is unsatisfactory," Oleg Mironov was quoted by Trud as saying. He said no progress was likely before real economic development took place in the country.

A former Communist, Mironov, unlike his predecessor Sergei Kovalyov, has broadly approved the government's military campaign in Chechnya.