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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kremlin Urges Parties To Sign an Agreement

The Kremlin is pressing registered political parties to sign an agreement apparently aimed at further marginalizing opposition groups, Vedomosti reported Thursday.

The document, dubbed the Charter on Countering Extremism and drafted by the presidential administration in January, has already been backed by the country's two leading pro-Kremlin parties as well as the opposition Yabloko party. The Communist Party, however, has refused to sign the pact.

According to the charter, a copy of which was posted by State Duma Deputy Viktor Alksnis on his blog in early March, the parties should forgo cooperation with organizations that incite ethnic, religious and social discord.

The parties must also refuse to participate in demonstrations and marches promoting ethnic, religious and social tension, and should cut ties with groups using juveniles for extremist activities.

Vedomosti suggested that the increased pressure on the parties is a Kremlin attempt to head off opposition demonstrations planned for mid-April in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Asked to comment on this suggestion, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said only that it was important for all political forces -- even marginal ones -- to reject extremism.

Peskov said he did not know whether opposition groups had been offered to sign the charter.

United Russia backed the pact in February, party spokesman Leonid Goryainov said in an interview on Thursday.

Another pro-Kremlin party -- A Just Russia -- also backed the charter in February while Yabloko signed it on Tuesday, Vedomosti reported

The liberal Union of Right Forces is considering signing the charter, party leader Nikita Belykh told Ekho Moskvy radio on Thursday.

The charter has no binding power for parties.

The Communist Party and the leftist People's Will party, to which Alksnis belongs, refused to sign the charter. Both parties have participated in opposition rallies together with the unregistered National Bolshevik Party.

On Thursday, the Moscow City Court was expected to begin hearings into a request by the Prosecutor General's Office to ban the National Bolshevik Party for extremism, but the trial was postponed until April 18.

Yabloko deputy head Sergei Mitrokhin told Ekho Moskvy on Thursday that his party had signed a preliminary version of the charter only after amendments proposed by Yabloko had been included in the draft.

Fellow Yabloko official Sergei Ivanenko said at a press conference Thursday that the final version of the charter was still in the process of being reworked but that no specific deadlines were in place, Interfax reported.

Yabloko does not have any particular problems with the charter in its current form, Ivanenko said, Interfax reported.