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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

United Russia Taps Stars, the Rich

United Russia's preliminary list for the December State Duma elections is not limited to politicians, but also includes a smattering of sports stars, billionaires and governors.

The list, set to be sent to the party's regional branches Thursday, will also include Duma deputies, three federal ministers, 14 Federation Council senators, 69 governors, 21 mayors and 24 speakers of local legislatures.

"The list was formed on the principle that it should include representatives of different social groups and public organizations -- young, successful and beautiful," Valery Ryazansky, deputy head of the party's presidium, said by phone Wednesday.

The variety of popular sports figures on the party's list includes rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabayeva, pole-vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, figure skater Irina Rodnina, gymnast Svetlana Khorkina and hockey legend Vladislav Tretyak -- all of them Olympics champions.

Alexei Mukhin, of the Center of Political Information, called the inclusion of sports stars on the party list "a brilliant PR stunt" after Sochi won the right to host the Olympics in 2014.

"Athletes can add more votes," said Boris Makarenko with the Center for Political Technologies. "But if they go to the State Duma, it is clear that they will be obedient."

Political heavyweights in the United Russia armory include Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov, Agricultural Minister Alexei Gordeyev, Natural Resources Minister Yury Trutnev and State Duma Deputy Speaker Lyubov Sliska.

Many of the big businessmen on the party list are current Duma deputies with United Russia, like Metalloinvest co-owner Andrei Skoch, Sedmoi Kontinent chain of grocery stores co-owner Vladimir Gruzdev, Belaya Dacha founder Viktor Semyonov and owner of Titan timber industry group Vladimir Krupchak.

CEO of Urals Mining and Metallurgy Company Andrei Kozitsyn and chairman of Magnitogorsk Iron & Steel Works, or MMK, Viktor Rashnikov, both billionaires according to Forbes magazine, are also on the United Russia list.

Another possible billionaire candidate for the United Russia party list, according to the Forbes list, is Suleiman Kerimov, who controls the Nafta-Moskva investment vehicle, Vedomosti reported Wednesday.

"[Big businessmen] are guaranteed to get into the Duma, regardless of whether they are popular in the regions or not, as they pay for the party's projects," Mukhin said.

The party list also includes a lot of people from pro-Kremlin youth groups Young Guard, Young Russia and Nashi. According to the acting law regulating elections of Duma deputies, if the seat of a winning candidate is vacant, it is given to a candidate lower on the party list. The law does not stipulate any penalty for a candidate who refuses his seat.