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Russian opposition leaders reject Putin's 'money and power' comment

Opposition FiguresMoscow, 16 December: Leaders of the opposition Party of People's Freedom For Russia without Lawlessness and Corruption, Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Ryzhkov, described as groundless Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's assertion that the aims of the marginal (vernacular: vnesistemnaya, literally outside-the-system) opposition were money and power.

Talking to the people of Russia on live TV and radio earlier on Thursday (16 December), the Russian prime minister expressed the view that if the marginal opposition regained power they would line their pockets and sell off the whole of Russia. (Passage omitted: Putin quote)

Ryzhkov has told Interfax that these assertions were "not supported by facts" and an attempt to "shift the blame".

"After all, Putin is accusing us of the vices with which his own rule is associated," Ryzhkov said.

He maintains that while Putin has been in power "the level of corruption in the country has increased tenfold, the number of functionaries has doubled, and the number of dollar multimillionaires has increased tenfold".

"I would like to find out what exactly I stole together with (exiled tycoon) Boris Berezovskiy," Ryzhkov remarked.

At the same time he stressed that the public would be interested to know the exact details of Putin's work at the St Petersburg mayor's office in the early 1990s. "In the early 90s Mr Putin, to use the language he favours himself, 'caused a storm in St Petersburg', and information about this is quite controversial," Ryzhkov said.

For his part, Nemtsov described the prime minister's allegations against the marginal opposition as "rubbish". "Had anything he said been true, we would long have been in jail," Nemtsov told Interfax.

"The sooner the prime minister is sacked, the better for Russia," the opposition leader added.

(Gazprom-owned, editorially independent Russian news agency Ekho Moskvy quoted Ryzhkov telling Ekho Moskvy radio that his party was considering suing Putin for slander. "It is nothing but lies and slander", Ryzhkov said, adding that Putin spoke in order to discredit members of the party, which intends to contest the future parliamentary and presidential elections. Putin tries to intimidate its supporters and "derail the process of unification of the pro-democracy opposition", Ryzhkov said.)

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