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05:59 GMT +3 hours20 December 2014
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Russia

‘Putin’s Special Force’ Reborn

Russia
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A nationalist party that once called itself “Putin’s political spetsnaz,” or special force, was reinstated in Moscow on Saturday, six years after the Kremlin had it canceled.

A nationalist party that once called itself “Putin’s political spetsnaz,” or special force, was reinstated in Moscow on Saturday, six years after the Kremlin had it canceled.

Rodina (“Fatherland”) will remain staunchly loyal to President Vladimir Putin because of his patriotic stance, which is also at the core of the party’s ideology, said the new Rodina leader, Alexei Zhuravlyov.

Zhuravlyov, a member of the ruling United Russia, was unanimously voted the head of Rodina at a congress in Moscow. The party will be applying for official registration with the Justice Ministry, a prerequisite to participate in any elections in Russia.

Rodina, then headed by Dmitry Rogozin, was a rising force in Russian politics in the early 2000s, peaking during the 2003 parliamentary elections, when its brand of populist nationalism brought it 37 of 450 seats in the State Duma.

But the Kremlin, concerned with Rodina’s rising influence, had it merged in 2006 along with two other independent parties into the leftist and pro-government A Just Russia. Rogozin was made Russia’s envoy to NATO and later became a Deputy Prime Minister.

Rogozin endorsed the newly established party at the congress on Saturday, but opted not to join.

It remained unclear whether any of the 64 State Duma deputies with A Just Russia will leave their current party to join Rodina.

Russia has no prominent nationalist parties except for the populist and pro-Kremlin Liberal Democratic Party. However, Rodina faces stiff competition from 32 new parties of all political stripes that were registered in recent months after the liberalization of party legislation, as well as dozens that are pending registration.