Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gryzlov Quits to Lead 298 Deputies

APGryzlov smiling after he dodged an egg thrown at him at United Russia's congress.
Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov resigned Wednesday to take a seat in the new State Duma, where, he said, his pro-Kremlin United Russia party will have 298 seats.

Gryzlov, who will lead United Russia in the Duma and is likely to be named the chamber's speaker, also said at a party congress Wednesday that United Russia will endorse President Vladimir Putin in his bid for re-election in a March election.

His remarks came as opposition parties discussed their election strategies and a group supporting Putin registered his re-election bid with the Central Elections Commission.

The group, the Moscow Judicial Academy, fielded Putin as a presidential candidate in 2000 and the registration Wednesday allows it to start gathering the 2 million signatures required him to join the 2004 race.

"During the past four years we saw that he is what we need, and we decided to repeat it," academy rector Oleg Kutafin said in televised remarks.

Putin said last week that he would seek re-election without the support of a political party.

Gryzlov, the chairman of United Russia, told the congress of some 2,000 delegates gathered in the Rossiya concert hall that the party's goal would be to make sure that Putin wins by a landslide.

"Our candidate in the election is known -- he is President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. Our goal is to ensure his resounding victory," Gryzlov said after reading a greeting from Putin.

He added that he had submitted his resignation to Putin, and the president had accepted it.

No one was named to replace Gryzlov as of Wednesday evening, but Interfax reported that leading candidates included Deputy Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev and Konstantin Romodanovsky, an FSB officer and member of the Kremlin's powerful siloviki clan who currently heads the ministry's internal directorate.

Gryzlov said United Russia is two seats shy of the 300 needed to form a two-thirds majority -- the amount needed in the Duma to approve changes to the Constitution.

The party won 120 seats on the party-list vote and 126 seats in single-mandate votes in Dec. 7 Duma elections. Since then, Gryzlov said, 52 deputies have joined United Russia, giving the party a total of 298 seats.

Gryzlov did not mention constitutional amendments in his remarks, and it remains unclear whether United Russia will indeed try to modify it to extend Putin's time in office, as some political analysts have suggested. Putin has said he opposes making any such changes to the Constitution.

Gryzlov's speech was briefly interrupted when several unidentified men threw eggs at his head just as he finished thanking Putin for supporting the party during the parliamentary election campaign. Gryzlov sidestepped the eggs with a smile. The men were hustled away. Interfax said they might be members of the radical National Bolshevik Party, which has tossed eggs and mayonnaise at other pro-Kremlin officials.

Across town from the United Russia congress, the two liberal parties that failed to get into the Duma -- Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces, or SPS -- agreed at a meeting to field joint candidates in elections for regional legislative assemblies in March, senior SPS official Boris Nadezhdin said.

Votes for local legislative assemblies will be held in six regions -- including the city of Moscow -- on March 14, the same day as the presidential election.

Yabloko and SPS decided Wednesday to put off a discussion about their strategy for the presidential election until next month.

After attempts to select a single presidential candidate failed, Yabloko and SPS will now have to debate whether to boycott the election or call on their supporters to vote against all contenders, Nadezhdin said.

A Yabloko-SPS council is to take up the issue when it meets again Jan. 15, he said.

Meanwhile, Boris Berezovsky's Liberal Russia party nominated former Deputy Ivan Rybkin to run as its presidential candidate Wednesday. The party did not make it into the new Duma.

Rybkin, a political heavyweight in the mid-1990s, was the first State Duma speaker and has served as the head of the advisory Security Council and a deputy prime minister.

Rybkin told a conference of some 700 supporters at the Kosmos hotel that he would decide by Jan. 5 whether he would run.

Berezovsky participated in the conference via a video link from London, where he is living after being granted asylum by Britain earlier this year.

"My platform would be to move toward a new democratic Russia and to preserve what we so painstakingly created and what is now being thoughtlessly torn apart," Rybkin said.

At least two other people have declared an interest in running for president -- Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov, who heads the small Party of Life, and coffin magnate German Sterligov.

Staff Writers Anatoly Medetsky and Anna Dolgov contributed to this report.