Russia’s celebrities and activists launch voters’ league

From left: Journalist Leonid Parfenov and writer Boris Akunin. RIA NOVOSTI / Vladimir Pesnya
A group of 16 Russian public figures and activists have founded the “League of Voters” – a new organization which aims to prevent election-rigging and generally promote public participation in politics.

­The principal figures behind the League of Voters are the well-known journalist Leonid Parfenov, the renowned detective story writer Boris Akunin (real name Grigoriy Chkhartishvili), and the rock star Yuri Shevchuk. “Parfenov, Shevchuk and Akunin were leading in the open Internet voting before the Sakharov Prospect rally. It was important for the people to hear the opinion of these same people,” reads the League’s press-release, distributed on the Internet.

Other members of the league include high-profile journalists, celebrities and activists.

The founders of the league have not yet outlined any specific plans.  Boris Akunin and TV presenter and stand-up comedian Tatyana Lazareva wrote in their blogs that it was important to take action, to move from words to deeds. They promised to prepare a program for the league and publish it on Wednesday.

Former Russian Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, whose political experience is seen as a major asset in setting up a new liberal political force in Russia, wrote on his website that the League of Voters should choose people to become the representatives of the street opposition in the talks with the authorities. Kudrin also said that he supported the candidacy of Russian ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, whose name was put forward by the Presidential Council for Human Rights, as an intermediary between the authorities and the protesters. At the same time, Kudrin noted that there had been little progress in talks between the government and the opposition.

Meanwhile, the leftist wing of the street opposition have –  as expected – aligned themselves with the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. News agencies reported on Tuesday that KPRF leader Gennadiy Zyuganov and the head of the Leftist Front movement, Sergey Udaltsov, had signed an agreement guaranteeing the fulfillment of all the demands voiced by the participants in the December protests. It states that if Zyuganov is elected president, he would meet such demands as the immediate release of political prisoners, the dismissal of the head of the Central Election Commission, the ending of media censorship, making changes in the Constitution and holding new parliamentary elections before December 2012.