Moscow sees key resignation and firings in election fallout

Dec 14, 2011

Russian Speaker scapegoated for Putin’s failings; magazine chiefs get boot for ballot-rigging story

THE POLITICAL fallout from United Russia’s poor showing in this month’s parliamentary elections has claimed a major victim in one of Vladimir Putin’s closest allies - Boris Gryzlov, Speaker in the State Duma.

Gryzlov (above) was famed for his loyalty to Putin and his ability to hustle through the Duma any new legislation Putin requested. In 2005 he famously remarked that the Duma “isn’t a place for discussion”.

“Today I made a decision to surrender my parliamentary mandate,” said Gryzlo, who has headed the ruling United Russia party in parliament ever since it was created in 2002 to support the decisions of then President Putin. “It would be wrong to occupy the post of Speaker for more than two terms in a row.”

But as The Times reports, Gryzlov appears to be the scapegoat for the party’s collapse in popularity, which saw support fall to 49 per cent, only enough to secure a narrow majority in the Duma.

Gryzlov fell on his sword the day after the Russian media tycoon Alisher Usmanov – best known in Britain as the part-owner of Arsenal FC - fired two senior executives at his Kommersant Vlast weekly news magazine for allowing disrespectful (to Putin) coverage of the recent protests over alleged ballot rigging in the elections.

As The Daily Telegraph reports, the magazine’s most recent front cover showed a picture of Putin staring mysteriously into a ballot box with the headline: ‘The victory of the United (Russia) ballot-stuffers. How the elections were falsified. Evidence and eyewitnesses.’ Inside were photos showing a spoiled ballot paper and a spray-painted image of Putin with the slogan in English ‘Public Enemy No. 1’.

Usmanov said the coverage "bordered on petty hooliganism" and fired the magazine’s editor-in-chief Maxim Kovalsky and publisher Andrei Galiyev. The head of the Russian journalists’ union, Vsevolod Bogdanov, called it “a knee-jerk reaction” and added: “Today is a dark and difficult day."

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