Putin to Meet Opposition at Valdai Discussion Club, Report Says

Vladimir Putin file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – September 13, 2013) President Vladimir Putin will meet prominent opposition politicians at the 10th annual Valdai International Discussion Club, where Russian and foreign experts will discuss diversity, political and otherwise, in modern Russia, a news report said Friday.

The forum is being held in the Novgorod region from Sept. 16-19 and will conclude with a discussion between Putin and the other participants, Vedomosti reported.

In attendance will be Yekaterinburg’s mayor, Yevgeny Roizman, RPR-Parnas co-chairman Vladimir Ryzhkov, former candidate for the Moscow region’s governorship Gennady Gudkov, State Duma Deputy Ilya Ponomaryov from A Just Russia, and media darling and activist Ksenia Sobchak.

Conspicuously absent from the list is Alexei Navalny, who took many by surprise when he claimed 27 percent of the Moscow mayoral vote on Sept. 8.

Valdai co-chairman Sergei Karagnov said that the conference administration had sent Navalny an invitation, while Navalny’s press secretary insisted that no such invitation was received.

In any case, Navalny would not be able to attend as he is required to remain in Moscow due to ongoing legal proceedings, his press secretary said.

The last meeting between the president and opposition members took place in 2012, when then-President Dmitry Medvedev invited leaders of unregistered parties, including Ryzhkov, Boris Nemtsov, and Sergei Udaltsov, to discuss political reform. The meeting was most likely convened in response to the rapid growth of the protest movement at that time.

As before, these invitations could be intended to demonstrate the Kremlin’s willingness to communicate with all political contingents in an environment where no substantive decisions or promises are made, political analyst Mikhail Vinogradov told Vedomosti.