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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Great Russia Refused Registration

The Federal Registration Service on Tuesday denied registration to Great Russia, the party co-founded earlier this year by former Rodina head Dmitry Rogozin.

The decision removes one option for nationalist voters ahead of December's State Duma elections in a move analysts said was calculated to help parties closer to the Kremlin keep these votes for themselves.

The party's chairman, State Duma Deputy Andrei Savelyev, labeled the decision a "direct order from the Kremlin."

The Kremlin dismissed the allegations as groundless.

An employee at the Federal Registration Service, who did not give her name, said the party's application had been rejected for a variety of reasons. She said she was unable to provide details, however, referring further questions to party officials.

In rejecting the application, the service ruled that the party's charter violated the law on political parties, Savelyev said.

He pointed out, however, that Great Russia's charter was absolutely identical to that of A Just Russia, a pro-Kremlin party that was successfully registered earlier this year.

Great Russia adopted the charter specifically because it had been tested with the registration service, said Sergei Pykhtin, secretary of the party's Central Council.

"If they studied the charter of A Just Russia as closely," Pykhtin said, "why is it that they did not find violations in the charter the first time, but did find them the second?"

Pykhtin listed a number of technical problems the registration service identified in the application. In one case, he said, the agency claimed that regional party members had not confirmed their membership, even though the party has written applications from them.

Another purported violation involved a spelling mistake on a financial document, he said.

Opposition parties have complained that the authorities often use technicalities to sideline them from the political process. Yabloko, the Union of Right Forces and the Communist Party were all removed from the ballot on technical grounds in various regional elections in March, while the Federation Registration Service has found 16 smaller parties in violation of the law requiring parties to have a minimum membership of 50,000.

Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday that the Kremlin played no role in these decisions.

"There is the law of the Russian Federation on which the registration of political parties is founded. This is the only criterion," Peskov said. "There can, therefore, be no talk of influence from the Kremlin. Such allegations are groundless."

Great Russia was founded in May by Rogozin, Savelyev and Alexander Belov, head of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, which stages rallies denouncing the presence of dark-skinned foreigners in Russia.

At the time, Great Russia claimed that it had 35,000 members, and party leaders predicted the number would reach 50,000 -- the total required for a party to be registered -- by the time it filed its application in July.

Rogozin had led Rodina, the party he helped found just months before the 2003 State Duma elections and was widely seen as a Kremlin-directed project designed to steal votes from the Communists.

But Rogozin left the party last year after a falling-out with the Kremlin, and Rodina was later folded into A Just Russia.

At the founding congress of Great Russia, the three men behind its creation promised that the new party would be independent of the Kremlin, and Rogozin said it would garner 25 percent of the vote in December.

Analysts said at the time that the party stood a good chance of making it over the 7 percent barrier in order to win seats -- if it could get registered, which they said was unlikely.

"I would have been surprised if the party was registered," Boris Makarenko, an analyst with the Center for Political Technologies, said Tuesday. "They would not have gathered a lot of votes, only 5 to 8 percent, but they would have changed the discourse in the country: More radical ultranationalist forces would have appeared. And this would be unacceptable for the authorities, as there would have been new Kondopogas."

Ethnic riots in the northwestern town of Kondopoga in August raised the specter of nationalist violence, spearheaded by groups like Belov's Movement Against Illegal Immigration, elsewhere in Russia.

The Kremlin did not want Great Russia to emerge as a political force because it would have diluted the strength of loyal nationalist parties, said Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Panorama think tank.

"The presidential administration calculated the number of votes for every [party] a long time ago, and it doesn't need independent ultranationalists," Pribylovsky said. "It has tame, pretend ultranationalists like the LDPR and Patriots of Russia."

Great Russia will discuss how to respond when its leaders meet Wednesday.

"We have two options: either correct our mistakes and try to register again, or challenge the claims in court," Pykhtin said.

Savelyev also complained that the Federal Registration Service had illegally opened an investigation into the activities of party members, something only law enforcement agencies can do.

"We will file a minimum of two complaints with prosecutors," he said. "One about concrete illegal actions by the Federal Registration Service in their investigation, and another on the refusal to register us."