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Russian Nationalist Urges Support for Putin

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An influential nationalist leader urged his followers on Wednesday to throw their support behind Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin, telling them that they will no longer have to shiver at street demonstrations because the Kremlin will grant them access to executive and legislative power.

The leader of the Rodina party (Motherland), Dmitry Rogozin, who is Russia’s envoy to NATO, was speaking about coming parliamentary elections in which Mr. Putin’s party, United Russia, aims to preserve its lock on power. But his remarks had resonance amid growing tensions over whether Mr. Putin or his protégé, President Dmitri A. Medvedev, will run as the Kremlin’s presidential candidate.

Both the president and the prime minister will speak on Saturday at United Russia’s congress, and many are looking for signs of a decision. In the meantime, virtually no prominent political figure has risked expressing a preference for one man over the other.

“I want to say that I’ve made my choice,” Mr. Rogozin said. “I’m not a delegate, I’m a guest at the convention. But my choice is Vladimir Putin. I believe that in the political situation that is developing with the upcoming elections, we should support him.”

Ethnic nationalism makes up a powerful strain in Russian politics, and there have been signs that the parliamentary campaign will tap into grievances against migrants from the Caucasus and Central Asia. This month, Mr. Medvedev delivered a speech in which he warned against the spread of xenophobia and intolerance, as well as “reactionary and conservative ideas.”

In his remarks on Wednesday, Mr. Rogozin told his followers that they would be rewarded with influence if they joined forces with United Russia, something he called “a pragmatic approach.” This represents a substantial shift, since his previous party posed a pugnacious challenge to United Russia when it was banned in Moscow in 2006, on the grounds that it incited ethnic hatred. “Our main goal should be to integrate with power,” Mr. Rogozin told the Congress of Russian Communities, a political organization created to support ethnic Russians living outside Russia’s borders. Mr. Rogozin says the organization has 100,000 members.

“Maybe not into Parliament, but into executive authority,” he said. “We should go boldly to the authorities and say we have had enough of freezing at Russian marches. It’s time to move into the offices where the main strategic decisions about Russia’s future are made.”

Ninety-one of the 107 delegates at the congress then voted to support Mr. Putin’s party, rather than form an independent one or boycott the elections, according to the Interfax news service. Mr. Rogozin ended speculation that he might run for Parliament or the presidency, saying he planned to return to his post in Brussels.

Meanwhile, Valentina I. Matviyenko, a Putin loyalist approved to head the upper house of Russia’s Parliament, suggested that incremental political reforms may be introduced after the elections. Ms. Matviyenko told Russian state television that she supported restoring direct popular election to the upper house, called the Federation Council, rolling back a decision made by Mr. Putin after he took power 11 years ago. Mr. Medvedev expressed support for the change this month.


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