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Russia senate speaker pressured to go ahead of polls

Russia’s long-serving senate speaker and one of its most senior politicians has come under attack from the ruling United Russia party amid a growing power tussle ahead of next year’s presidential polls.

The chairman of Saint Petersburg’s city parliament, dominated by United Russia, said Thursday it would decide whether to remove Sergei Mironov as its representative in Russian parliament’s upper house, the Federation Council.

The move represents a stunning reversal of fortune for Mironov, 58, a leader of left-leaning A Just Russia party and the number four official in Russia’s political pecking order.

The decision was prompted by Mironov this month calling Saint Petersburg “the most corrupt city in Russia,” the city parliament’s speaker, Vadim Tyulpanov, told the popular Echo of Moscow radio station on Thursday.

It comes amid reports that the Kremlin is seeking to build A Just Russia into a rival of Putin’s United Russia party ahead of the presidential polls in which both President Dmitry Medvedev and Putin are considering running.

Citing a senior lawmaker, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported this month that the Kremlin wanted to strengthen A Just Russia into a major force that could provide Medvedev with a political springboard ahead of parliamentary polls in December.

Prominent lawmaker Konstantin Zatulin told the newspapaper that Medvedev’s push to stay in the Kremlin violated his pact with Putin who shows no willingness to retire.

Analysts said Mironov’s political days appear to be numbered.

“We can say goodbye to Mironov, his career is unlikely to continue past 2012,” independent political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin said on Echo of Moscow radio.

Despite the ruling duo’s efforts to speak with one voice ahead of the elections, observers are pointing to multiplying cracks in the tandem.

A member of the United Russia, Zatulin was removed last month from a committee post in the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, which he blames on his explicit support of Putin at the expense of Medvedev.

Calling the initiative a “psychological attack” by the ruling party on Mironov, A Just Russia dismissed it as political jockeying ahead of the polls.