Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Opposition and Kremlin Head for New Showdown

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Opposition and Kremlin Head for New Showdown

Article excerpt

A tentative attempt to set up dialogue between the Kremlin and the organizers of street protests foundered on Monday, leaving little time for the groups to de-escalate tensions before demonstrations planned for Feb. 4 and March 11.

A tentative attempt to set up dialogue between the Kremlin and the organizers of street protests foundered on Monday, leaving little time for the groups to de-escalate tensions before demonstrations planned for Feb. 4 and March 11.

Former Finance Minister Aleksei L. Kudrin, who had offered to act as an intermediary between the government and the protesters, said after his third meeting with opposition leaders that the sides remained intransigent and that he had made no progress.

"This perfectly suits the 'hard-liners' in each camp, but it cannot satisfy adherents of a rational approach," said Mr. Kudrin, a longtime ally of Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin who was dismissed as finance minister in September. "I consider continuation of the status quo to be dangerous. In order to retrieve this situation from a dead end, it is necessary for both sides to take a step toward one another."

The winter holidays have offered little sign of dialogue. In an article published Monday in Izvestia, Mr. Putin rejected the possibility of swift political change, casting himself in a sweeping historical context as the figure who can lead Russia through a "zone of turbulence" that is just starting.

"A recurring problem in Russian history is the desire of a part of its elites to make leaps, to embrace revolution instead of sequential development," the article said. "Not only Russian experience, but all world experience shows the fatal results of historic leaps: haste and subversion, without creation."

He said a new set of officials would be equally vulnerable to chronic failings like corruption, "parasitism" and stagnation. "At every opportunity," he wrote, "the 'subverters' before our eyes become 'self-satisfied gentlemen,' who oppose any changes and jealously guard their status and privileges. Or the reverse -- the 'gentlemen' turn into 'subverters."'

Vladimir A. Ryzhkov, a longtime opposition leader who was at Monday's meeting with Mr. Kudrin, said he believed that Mr. Kudrin had made sincere efforts to persuade Mr. Putin to engage with protest organizers but that Mr. Putin had refused those overtures, as well as those of other would-be intermediaries.

"For us, it is better, because people will be angry at Putin and it will be easier to gather people" for a march planned for Feb. 4, Mr. Ryzhkov said. At the end of this week, he said, organizers will submit a formal request for a route that would stretch about 6 kilometers, or 4 miles, through central Moscow. Mr. Ryzhkov said there was not likely to be another large action until March 11, after Election Day. …

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