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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kasyanov Promises Homes and Health Care

MTSupporters clapping after Kasyanov spoke at a conference in the Kosmos hotel on Saturday. The conference nominated him as a presidential candidate.
Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov promised better apartments for half the population and free health care for all if he is elected president next year.

Kasyanov, speaking at a weekend conference that nominated him as a presidential candidate, also reiterated an earlier warning that the country was headed for an economic crisis if it remained on the current course.

A veritable who's who of liberal politicians stood up to give speeches supporting Kasyanov's bid during the two-day conference, which ended Saturday.

Pro-Kremlin youth activists tried to disrupt the proceedings at the Kosmos hotel several times, dressing up as doctors to detain the "mentally ill" Kasyanov, lighting flares, and throwing leaflets from a top floor.

A visibly pleased Kasyanov told the 650 delegates from his Russian People's Democratic Union that "for the first time in recent years, a real opposition has been created in Russia."

But political analysts and even several fellow opposition politicians said Kasyanov had little hope of being elected, noting his single-digit popularity ratings and the Kremlin's powerful grip over political life in the country. It remains to be seen whether Kasyanov or any other opposition candidate will be registered as a candidate by the Central Elections Commission.

Kasyanov gave a flurry of election promises at the conference, and he identified social issues as the priority of his electoral program, which was adopted Saturday.

Among other things, Kasyanov promised that within three years of being elected he would bring back free health care, stamp out bribery in public education, move one-fourth of Russians into new apartments, and completely refurbish the apartments of another quarter of the population.

"Today, when the state has such a huge concentration of natural resources, there is nothing that justifies the authorities' reluctance and inability to solve the country's problems," said Kasyanov.

He also warned of what would happen if the country continued down the economic and social path laid by President Vladimir Putin, who fired him as prime minister in 2004.

"In three to four years there will definitely be a crisis," he said.

Opposition leaders Garry Kasparov, Eduard Limonov, Irina Khakamada and Boris Nemtsov took the stage to praise Kasyanov.

"Kasyanov is the most successful opposition figure in recent years and the best banker in the country," said Kasparov, a former chess champion.

"If your whole speech had been shown on Channel One, the ratings of all of [Putin's potential] successors would have fallen," Khakamada said. "But that is exactly why it wasn't shown."

Former Central Bank chief Viktor Gerashchenko, another opposition candidate, and Moscow Helsinki Group head Lyudmila Alexeyeva also attended the conference. Gerashchenko did not make any public comments, while Alexeyeva wished luck to all the opposition leaders.

grigory tambulov / mt
Young Russia activists jeering Kasyanov from a top floor of the Kosmos hotel before the start of Saturday's meeting.
Several activists with Young Russia, a pro-Putin youth group, lit flares and threw dozens of leaflets down from a top floor of the building before the meeting started Saturday. The leaflets suggested that Kasyanov was being funded by the U.S. government. As the leaflets rained down and a black malodorous smoke swirled through the air, the activists vanished.

Later, a small group of young people dressed in doctor's gowns tried to storm the conference, saying Kasyanov was mentally ill. OMON riot police held the protesters back, though one young man broke through and approached Kasyanov, saying, "He needs treatment," Reuters reported. Security guards escorted him from the building.

Near the end of the conference, a young man stood up in the audience and said, "Hi, my name is Roman, and I am not indifferent to what is happening in our country." At that moment, several hotel guards rushed up to him and carried him away by his arms and legs. As he was being carried down a hallway to the hotel exit, he struggled to free himself and shouted, "Kasyanov, traitor!"

The conference ended with a final speech by Kasyanov, who stood on stage with a group of smiling, applauding supporters.

Kasyanov used the moment to make another promise. As soon as he was elected, he said, he would present a 100-day national development program that would include an everyday plan of his activities as head of state.