| Leaders of one of the two wings of Russia's democratic
opposition said in a
statement obtained by AFP they would boycott next year's presidential
The heads of the Union of Right Forces (SPS) said state-controlled media
that dominates the nation was too obedient to Russian President Vladimir
Putin and that the liberal opposition stood no chance in elections scheduled
for March 14.
And so, they said, there was no reason to run.
Pro-Putin factions swept to power in a December 7 vote to the State
lower house of parliament. The Kremlin now holds a majority in the chamber
that could allow it to alter the Russian constitution.
The second main liberal opposition front in Russia -- the Yabloko party
run by Grigory Yavlinsky
-- opened a two-day meeting Saturday to decide whether it would stand.
An announcement from Yabloko was expected Sunday.
The overwhelmingly popular Putin used a national television address
announce Thursday that he would run again.
The opposition letter obtained by AFP led off with the name of SPS leader
Boris Nemtsov and included the support of the widow of Nobel peace prize
winner Andrei Sakharov, Yelena Bonner.
The statement accused the Kremlin of "manipulating public opinion,
censorship, (and) the absence of an independent media" in the Duma
"Under these circumstances, the presidential elections will inevitably
up being a farce in which reasonable and decent people should not
"For this reason we have only one choice: not to take part in these
elections -- either to boycott, or to vote against all."
The statement said this would become a vote against the "return
totalitarianism in Russia."
The dramatic letter also hinted at worries that Yabloko would still
its candidate Yavlinsky -- and said firmly that he would not be supported
"We will view any candidate claiming to represent the democratic
a person who is taking part in a Kremlin bid to steal the elections,"
Both SPS and Yabloko lost most of their Duma seats and there are less
dozen of their representatives in the 450-seat chamber.
They had argued for years over joining forces -- both being the emblems
the post-Soviet struggle to introduce Western economic reforms and introduce
new values on human rights -- but have failed.
Most attribute this to personality clashes between the two parties.
Yet Russia's democratic opposition force, according to analysts, is
gripped by uncertainty, and some of their members are willing to work
the Kremlin, perhaps even being willing to be recruited into its ranks.
Putin said in his address that he wanted to recruit more democratic
opposition forces into his administration.
And this indecision appeared evident Saturday. Hours after the liberal's
statement composed at a meeting of opposition leaders Friday reached AFP,
one of the top SPS leaders appeared to waver.
"Most speakers (at Friday's meeting) advocate a boycott of the
election," Interfax quoted Boris Nadezhdin as saying.
But he added: "The Union of Right Forces has not made an official
on whether to participate in the elections."