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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Party of Life Has Kremlin's Blessing

A cryptic new party with a vague grassroots platform and the blessing of the country's No. 3 politician was formed over the weekend, fueling speculation as to who was behind it and whose political tool it would be in the 2003-04 election season.

Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov welcomed more than 200 delegates to the founding congress of the Party of Life on Saturday -- with new members ranging from animal lovers to advocates of veterans' rights to representatives of Mironov's Will of Petersburg bloc.

Politicians and analysts were confident the Kremlin had approved -- or even engineered -- the creation of the new party. In a greeting read out by Mironov and quoted by Interfax, President Vladimir Putin said: "The creation of the Party of Life is a good omen for our country and a testament to the development of a civil society and the spiritual rebirth of the nation."

Mironov, whose long-time friend Nikolai Levichev is the party's main ideologue, did not join, citing a busy schedule, but said in a number of interviews that he would very much like to be a member. Federation Council regulations forbid party activity in the chamber.

There were several interpretations of the party's raison d'etre.

Andrei Ryabov of the Moscow Carnegie Center said Monday that he believed the party was created by the so-called St. Petersburg clan of intelligence and security officials close to Putin, indicating they are set to battle for power against the dominant pro-Kremlin United Russia party in coming elections.

The Kommersant newspaper wrote Monday that, despite the party's bottom-up platform, security at the congress was inordinately tight and journalists had to go through several security cordons, including searches by the Federal Security Service.

The Gazeta.ru web site speculated that the rumors about the Petersburg clan could be a Kremlin "decoy" intended to discredit the chekisty if the party is a flop. The report also floated the idea that the Party of Life could be the presidential administration's way of keeping United Russia on its toes.

Mironov's press secretary Lyudmila Fomicheva directed all questions to the new party, but calls to its offices went unanswered Monday afternoon.

Others speculated that the party was part of a Kremlin attempt to lure fringe voters -- such as pensioners -- away from the Communists.

Ryabov disagreed, saying that the ideas espoused by the Party of Life and Mironov himself were too extravagant to attract the conservative, "ideologized" constituency of the Communists.