MOSCOW, February 8 (RIA Novosti) – One of three co-leaders of Russia’s most prominent liberal opposition party resigned Saturday, ending a long-running ideological split.
Vladimir Ryzhkov said that he left RPR-PARNAS after the other two members of the triumvirate, Boris Nemtsov and Mikhail Kasyanov, removed him from a senior post in the party’s political council.
The development marks another stage in the hapless opposition’s long-term decline, which has been exacerbated over the years by internecine struggles over aims and strategy.
Ryzhkov called his removal from the party’s political council “a complete surprise" and said that 15 other RPR-PARNAS members also quit in solidarity. He did not indicate any future plans.
A rift at the party was first reported last year. Media said Ryzhkov disapproved of his fellow leaders' willingness to ally with the left and nationalists, including popular, rabble-rousing politician Alexei Navalny. Nemtsov and Kasyanov criticized Ryzhkov for meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
RPR-PARNAS, formally known as the Republican Party of Russia – People's Freedom Party, was founded in 1990.
It was a torchbearer for the liberal anti-Kremlin opposition during much of Putin’s reign in the 2000s, despite being denied formal registration as a political party – and thus a place on the ballots – from 2007 to 2011.
The party endorsed the mass anti-Putin protests of 2011-2013, but its leaders largely lost the public spotlight to a new generation of politicians, Navalny in particular. The party had to battle accusations of ineffectiveness from many protesters at the street rallies.
Ryzhkov, 47, a native of the Altai Region in Siberia and a historian by education, headed RPR-PARNAS from 2006. An unwavering liberal, he was active in Russian politics for more than two decades, sitting in the State Duma from 1993 to 2007.