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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rogozin Creates Great Russia

For MTBetween questions from reporters, Rogozin takes questions from a list held by an assistant at the congress Saturday.
Former Rodina head Dmitry Rogozin and two other nationalist-minded leaders created a new party Saturday that appears to have a good chance of getting into the next State Duma -- if it can get registered.

The other co-founders of the new party, Great Russia, are Duma Deputy Andrei Savelyev and Alexander Belov, head of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, which stages boisterous rallies denouncing the presence of dark-skinned foreigners in Russia. Last month, Rogozin joined the group for a rally meant to counter an opposition Dissenters' March in Moscow.

Great Russia will have a nationalist platform, it will not be an opposition party, and it has no ties to the Kremlin, its founders told reporters after holding a founding congress at the Izmailovo Gamma-Delta hotel in eastern Moscow.

Rogozin -- wearing a striped black and orange tie, the colors of Great Russia's logo, the endangered Amur tiger -- opened his remarks with a quip about the logo.

"While searching the web, I came across information that the Amur tiger stopped dying out last year for the first time in history," Rogozin said.

"So now I believe that the Amur tiger will become a competitor to the blue bear," he said, referring to the symbol of United Russia, a white bear on a blue background.

He predicted that the party would collect 25 percent of the vote in Duma elections in December. Political analysts said the party would garner much fewer votes but still easily clear the 7 percent barrier for getting seats in the Duma.

Great Russia currently only has about 35,000 members -- far from the 50,000 it needs to be registered as a party.

Rogozin's spokeswoman Lidia Mikhailova said the party would have enough members by the time it files for registration in July.

"There will be no problem getting the necessary 50,000 given that in Moscow alone we are getting calls from up to 100 people per day who wish to join our party and are leaving their contact information with us," Mikhailova said by telephone on Sunday.

Savelyev was named the party's chairman on Saturday, and he immediately sought to distance Great Russia from Rodina, saying the new party had no links to the Kremlin. Rodina is widely believed to have been a Kremlin-directed project, set up just weeks before the last Duma elections to steal votes successfully from the Communists. Rogozin, a Duma deputy, left Rodina after a falling out with the Kremlin.

Rogozin should not have been at the congress.

At the Duma's request, the Prosecutor General's Office had summoned him for questioning that day about speculation that the new party was being funded by self-exiled billionaire Boris Berezovsky.

Rogozin is to meet with prosecutors in a few days, his spokeswoman said.

Rogozin and Belov did not receive any official positions within the party at the congress.

"We have strong suspicions that if I were on the party's list, it would have more problems with registration," Rogozin told the reporters.

Rogozin has good reason to worry, said Vladimir Pribylovsky, a political analyst with the Panorama think tank.

He said Vladislav Surkov, the deputy head of the presidential administration and the Kremlin's pointman on political parties, has a "negative attitude toward Rogozin and his new party."

"Rogozin and Belov have not registered as party leaders so as to avoid teasing Surkov," Pribylovsky said by telephone on Sunday.

Still, he and another political analyst, Stanislav Belkovsky, expressed doubt that the party would be registered. Belkovsky said the Kremlin intends for only four parties to get into the next Duma: United Russia, A Just Russia, the Liberal Democratic Party and the Communists.

"There's no place for Great Russia in the Kremlin's plan," Belkovsky said. "But if it is registered, it will beyond doubt pass the 7 percent barrier."

Pribylovsky said Great Russia would get at least 9 percent if it was registered.

"The Kremlin does not need a nationalist party," he said. "It is quite satisfied with United Russia, A Just Russia and the Liberal Democratic Party, which make a pro-Kremlin bloc."