Kremlin thwarts Mikhail Kasyanov to become lieder of liberal party's congress

A former Russian prime minister who is now a Kremlin opponent on Saturday angrily accused authorities of thwarting a liberal party's congress that was expected to name him as its leader. Participants in the congress of the Democratic Party of Russia were to elect Mikhail Kasyanov to head the party, but a large group of delegates turned against the former premier, locking themselves inside the downtown conference hall ahead of time and refusing to allow Kasyanov and his allies to enter. The rebellious group then chose its own, obscure candidate to be leader.

Kasyanov, who had to move to another venue in Moscow's northeastern outskirts together with his supporters, fumed at what he claimed was a government effort to foil the congress. He accused the authorities of supporting the "impostors" who split the party. "We are stepping directly into totalitarianism," Kasyanov said in remarks broadcast by the Echo Moskvy radio. "The government proceeds from the assumption that all significant political and social processes must be under control. That goes beyond any reasonable limits."

Kasyanov said that his supporters would consider whether to contest the election of Andrei Bogdanov by a splinter faction of the Democratic Party, or "turn a new page" and launch a new party. Kasyanov, who lost his job last year after speaking out against the arrest of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has recently sought to position himself as a leader of a yet-to-be formed united liberal opposition. He said he planned to run in the next presidential election in 2008, and urged the fractured and disorganized pro-democracy movement to unite.

In what many observers have interpreted as a Kremlin warning to Kasyanov not to get involved in politics, he is under official investigation on suspicion of fraud and abuse of office over a real estate transaction, though he has not been indicted in the case, informs the AP. N.U.

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