The speaker of the upper house of the Russian parliament Sergei Mironov launched a counter-attack against pro-Kremlin United Russia party after it demanded his resignation over criticism of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's course.
"Do members of the United Russia think that opposition and criticism is dishonest?" Mironov said. "In a civilized society this is the duty and goal of the opposition," he told journalists.
Mironov, the head of a small Just Russia party also loyal to the Kremlin, fueled the wrath of the United Russia party on Monday when he said in a television interview he did not fully share Putin's policy.
"Our party supports everything related to the foreign and some internal policies; however, we absolutely disagree with the budget plan introduced by Vladimir Putin," Mironov said. "We disagree with anti-crisis measures which Vladimir Putin introduced, this is why we proposed our anti-crisis plan."
Senior members of the United Russia party, which holds the parliamentary majority and is led by Putin, said they were planning to demand Mironov's resignation.
"Considering that he [Mironov] represents St. Petersburg's legislative assembly, where we [the United Russia] have the majority, I believe it is logical and necessary...to initiate [Mironov's] resignation procedures," said Andrei Vorobyov, head of United Russia's central executive committee.
Vyacheslav Volodin, a leading member of the United Russia party, said Mironov's remarks showed his "dishonesty and inconsistency in regard to Vladimir Putin - a person who has done so much for the country and its people."
Mironov said the United Russia party's reaction was "panicky and hysterical."
He said his resignation is possible only if his fellow members of the upper house request one.
"If my colleagues are not happy with my work they can raise the question of my resignation at any meeting of the Supreme Chamber," Mironov said.
Russia was badly hit by the global economic crisis, with the Russian government devaluing the ruble and cutting spending. The government has also introduced a set of unpopular measures in 2010, including higher community services bills, increased prices for food and medicines, and higher public transport fares.
However, despite heavy criticism from opposition parties, the popularity of Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev was not damaged by the crisis and they remain unchallenged leaders in opinion polls.
MOSCOW, February 3 (RIA Novosti)