MOSCOW, June 12 (RIA Novosti) – A revived pro-Kremlin movement that aims to unite civic activists loyal to the government announced at its official founding congress on Wednesday that President Vladimir Putin will become its leader.
In his speech, Putin thanked the members of the All-Russia People’s Front (ONF), which has been renamed by the congress as People’s Front – For Russia for their “support, confidence and backing during the last year’s election campaign.”
He expressed hope that the new movement will become a “permanent institution” and venue where “people of opposite views could gather to discuss problems and find appropriate ways of solving these issues.”
“Only like this, without confronting but uniting efforts in searching for the most appropriate development options, we can find the best way and reach the best result in our development,” Putin said, adding: “I am sure that we are heading in the right direction.”
Putin’s election campaign chief, film director Stanislav Govorukhin, MP Olga Timofeeva and Alexander Galushka, of the Delovaya Rossiya business association, will co-chair the movement in the next five years.
The movement’s declaration that was approved by the congress on Wednesday says that its participants will serve the general need of the public and will be guided by democratic values and respect the rule of law and people’s freedom.
The movement will primarily focus on dealing with Russia’s burning issues, according to opinion polls, such as human rights, quality of roads, health care system, education, culture, business, migration, housing services, utilities and environment.
ONF was established in 2011 ahead of controversial elections that filled parliament with pro-Kremlin deputies, returned Putin to the presidency and sparked widespread protests in Moscow and some other large cities after allegations of vote fraud.
Putin’s renewed interest in the ONF, whose name echoes Soviet-era movements, has led to speculation that the Kremlin is seeking to create a new “party of power” to replace the ruling United Russia party, which has been hit by a number of corruption scandals in recent months.
Putin said in 2011 that he wanted the ONF to act as an umbrella movement for members of trade unions, NGOs, business associations and youth groups. However, the movement’s exact function and status have remained unclear.
Thus far, the group, which claims 2,500 organizations as members, has had little impact on Russia’s political life.
Updated at 18.15 with details in para 7.