Vice speaker with Just Russia to hold consultations on his alleged siding with rival.

25/7 Tass 309

MOSCOW, July 25 (Itar-Tass) —— Vice speaker of the Russian State Duma lower parliament house with the Just Russia party Alexander Babakov on Monday begins consultations with his fellow party members on the situation within the party, Nikolai Levichev, the leader of the party, told Itar-Tass.

The consultations were prompted by media reports alleging that Babakov is leaving Just Russia to join the Putin-engineered Popular Front in order to take part in the primaries in the Perm territory. Media cited Babakov’s alleged open letter explaining his motives.

“So far, Babakov has made no public statement, and has denied writing the open letter,” Levichev said. But, in his words, “Where’s the smoke, there’s fire,” and the consultations is geared to find out whether it was a “false start or a provocation.”

“All will depend on Babakov’s personal position,” Levichev said and added that he had failed to meet with Babakov, since the latter was outside Moscow.

Earlier, Levichev did not rule out information and psychological pressure as put on Babakov to force him to the Popular Front. At the same time, Levichev said the situation might develop either way and warned that if Babkov opted for the Popular Front he would have to leave Just Russia and vacate his post of Duma vice speaker. “Whether he does it himself or we will have to help him in it… prospects are like this. I think neither he nor me have any illusions,” he noted. “But if Babakov keeps firm and despite all temptations says he believes in Just Russia’s political future and is ready to forge it with us, in this case, I think, his authority inside the party will jump high and he will might hope for a top position in the party list for the Duma elections.”

Babakov is unavailable for comment, and his aide Lydia Mikhailova said Babakov’s news conference scheduled for July 25 has been postponed for a later date.

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