Gorbachev starts new party in Russia

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Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and billionaire Alexander Lebedev plan to set up a new opposition party in Russia as the Kremlin's monopoly on political life strengthens.

The two men say they want the new party to field candidates in the next parliamentary elections in 2011, Mikhail Kuznetsov, the deputy chairman of Gorbachev's Union of Social Democrats, said in a phone interview on Monday in Moscow.

Gorbachev, 77, whose 1980s policy of glasnost or openness helped end the Cold War, is a co-owner with Lebedev, 48, of a pro- democracy newspaper, Novaya Gazeta. The former Soviet leader has criticized the elimination of independent television and abolition of elections of regional governors in favour of Kremlin appointees. Lebedev, who owns 30 per cent of national airline OAO Aeroflot, has turned increasingly critical of Russian leaders.

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