MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian opposition activists, who led tens of thousands of people
onto the streets in anti-government rallies in recent months, merged two parties into one on Saturday to strengthen their fight against President Vladimir Putin.
Mikhail Kasyanov, prime minister from 2000 to 2004 during Putin’s first term as president but now a fierce critic, and former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, united their People’s Freedom Party with former lawmaker Vladimir Ryzhkov’s Republican Party of Russia (RPR).
“Our main goal is a change in the country’s political course. This can be achieved only via free elections,” Kasyanov said on the sideline of a conference where party delegates created the new party RPR-PARNAS.
The opposition got a boost last December when tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets against what they said were rigged parliamentary elections won by ruling United Russia. Such numbers had not been seen since Putin’s rise to power in the late 1990s.