RUSSIA: SOLDIERS' MOTHERS SET UP POLITICAL PARTY

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MOSCOW, November 7 (RIA Novosti) - The United Popular Party of Soldiers' Mothers had a constituent congress today, and elected Valentina Melnikova its leader. She has been one of the most notable activists of the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers for fifteen years now.

If the Justice Ministry registers the party to get it on an official footing, it will certainly run for parliament. If it is success at the nearest parliamentary election, three years later, the first bill it will offer to the State Duma, lower house, will demand to abolish army conscription, Mrs. Melnikova said to the media.

"I am mother of two conscripts the Afghan war devoured," she added. "Super-steeled political activist," her comrades refer to their leader.

Mrs. Melnikova says she is proud to be standing at the cradle of Russia's first genuine grassroots political party, established on women's initiative. It is not a feminist movement. On the contrary, the party stands up for gender equality, she pointed out. "Membership quotas for women is the last thing we are after-these would be a shame not equality. What we want is an equal chance in politics for men and women."

The party is of slender means for now. Several tiny companies made a collection to fund its maiden congress. "We sent invitations to Russia's 150 top businessmen, and all replied they were keeping aloof to political projects," complained Valentina Melnikova.

The party is not after big money, for that matter. Committees of Soldiers' Mothers activists in the provinces say they need nothing but a loaf of bread and a bit of lard to keep body and soul together. They have made themselves known throughout the country even with an empty purse, she proudly remarked.

The budding party makes non-violence a point. "There are 298 patterns of non-violent action. We have tested 297 of these. Only one remains to try-to strip in public. That would make a huge sensation on Red Square at the height of winter," Mrs. Melnikova said from the congress rostrum, tongue-in-cheek.

The congress hotly and unanimously condemned Vladimir Ustinov, federal prosecutor general, who recently demanded hostage-taking terrorists' families detained. "To seize the innocent and shift on them liability for their relations means to revive Stalinism in contemporary practical politics," Mrs. Melnikova said to the media.

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