Medvedev humors opposition leaders

Medvedev humors opposition leaders

Medvedev humors opposition leaders

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) meets with representatives of political parties and movements at the Gorki presidential residence outside Moscow. Reuters photo

President Dmitry Medvedev hosted leaders of Russia’s protest movement Feb. 20, in a rare move after an outburst of rallies against Vladimir Putin’s likely return to the Kremlin.

Medvedev discussed ideas for reforming Russia’s “far from ideal” political system at a meeting that would have been almost unthinkable before mass opposition protests broke out in the aftermath of December parliamentary polls. Leftist radical Sergei Udaltsov, ex-cabinet minister Boris Nemtsov and liberal politician Vladimir Ryzhkov -- leaders of the movement that organized mass rallies against the authorities -- were all present at the meeting. "Our political system is far from ideal and most of those present here subject it to criticism and sometimes very harsh criticism,” Medvedev said at the meeting at his Gorky residence outside Moscow.

“There are people here with different political opinions and that is good because we have to understand in what direction our political system will develop,” he said in comments broadcast on state television. The protests, triggered by evidence of fraud in a December parliamentary election, have drawn tens of thousands onto the streets to demand free and fair elections. In an attempt to assuage public anger, Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev have proposed some reforms to allow more political competition. Opposition leader Vladimir Ryzhkov said after Monday’s meeting that he was pleasantly surprised by the president’s position on political parties.

Overall, though, he said there was only about 15 percent agreement on how to move forward and Medvedev refused to consider a demand for new parliamentary elections. He said Medvedev also did not respond to his proposal to form a permanent “round table” to bring together representatives of the president, the parties in parliament and the protest movement. Ryzhkov, speaking during a talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio, said the protests would continue until Russia’s leaders understood that the parliament does not represent the will of the people.

Compiled from AFP and AP stories by the Daily News staff.