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Embattled Russian opposition to establish new party: leaders

Russia’s marginalised opposition said on Thursday it planned to join forces in a new political party ahead of parliamentary elections next year and presidential polls in 2012.

Several opposition leaders said they would seek to merge several of the country’s movements into a single coalition in a bid to win seats in parliament dominated by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia party.

“Our goal is to change the political course,” Mikhail Kasyanov, former prime minister and one of the major players in the future coalition, said at a news conference.

Russia’s opposition is marginalised and fractured. Its parties are not represented in Russian parliament which acts as a rubber-stamp for decisions put forward by President Dmitry Medvedev and his mentor Putin.

Observers doubt the opposition stands any chance at winning any seats in parliament, much less challenging the ruling tandem’s grip on power.

Police regularly break up opposition protests and opposition does not have access to the country’s top television channels, all of which are state-controlled.

Putin and Medvedev have said they will agree who of them will run for president in 2012.

The opposition leaders said however they would press ahead with their plans to mount a challenge to the ruling duo.

“We plan to submit documents to the justice ministry to get registered,” former parliament member and liberal commentator Vladimir Ryzhkov said.

The future coaltion will put forward a single candidate that it hopes will run in the presidential polls, said Boris Nemtsov, a fierce critic of Putin and former government minister.

“We’ve agreed to abide by democratic values when nominatnig a single candidate from the democratic opposition to run for president,” Nemtsov said.

“We will not participate in any behind-the-scenes agreements.”

The new coalition will be called “For Russia Without Lawlessness and Corruption.”