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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gorbachev, Lebedev to Form Party

Billionaire banker Alexander Lebedev said Monday that he plans to create a new democratic party -- independent from the Kremlin -- with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

The new party will be called the Independent Democratic Party of Russia and will have at its foundations the Union of Social Democrats, a nongovernmental organization established last year by Gorbachev, Lebedev told RIA-Novosti.

"I would call the new party project undoubtedly nonconformist, with one simple thought: We cannot develop further as a country without independent political institutions," Lebedev said, RIA-Novosti reported.

Lebedev's announcement follows the resignation of Nikita Belykh as head of the liberal Union of Right Forces. Belykh said Friday that he resigned over his fellow party officials' plans to possibly cooperate with the Kremlin.

Lebedev said he could offer Belykh and Vladimir Ryzhkov -- another liberal politician -- to join the project.

Ryzhkov, whose Republican Party was disbanded by authorities last year for having less than 50,000 members, told RIA-Novosti that he was interested and ready to begin talks with Lebedev.

Reached by telephone Monday, Belykh declined immediate comment.

Lebedev, a former State Duma deputy and a billionaire who describes himself on his LiveJournal blog as a "capitalist-idealist," said it was too early to talk about possible participation in the 2011 Duma elections.

"There is indeed such an idea, but it completely depends on the desire of certain structures to register the party, given that law provides for a variety of technical impediments," he said, RIA-Novosti reported.

The government's policy is to reduce the number of political parties, Lebedev said. Over the past two years, a number of small political parties have been either banned, disbanded by courts or pressured into joining United Russia and A Just Russia.

Lebedev and Gorbachev jointly own 49 percent in Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper that is perhaps most openly critical of the Kremlin.