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Veteran Russian official sets up opposition group
Russia's veteran former finance minister Kudrin sets up opposition committee
By The Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) ' Russia's former finance minister on Thursday announced the creation of an independent committee to shape policies alternative to those of the government.

Alexei Kudrin served as finance minister between 2000 and 2011 and had been viewed as a close ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has been elected president.

Kudrin resigned last year over a disagreement with President Dmitry Medvedev, and threw his support behind the emerging opposition movement. The veteran politician has been named a key figure able to seek compromise with Putin on behalf of the hundreds of thousands who took to the streets in winter to protest apparent election fraud.

"The recent elections have demonstrated that people want to take part in seeking solutions for the issues facing our society and alternatives for our country's development," Kudrin said on Thursday. "We must help them in this."

Announcing the creation of the committee, Kudrin said it would be independent of any party, and would draft and push forward "best options" for the country's development. The list of the committee's founders include prominent public figures and one governor.

Kudrin said he has no immediate plans of joining any party or setting up his own.

The former finance minister has been a vocal critic of the government's budget policies. He said that the current levels of social spending and funding for the military are unsustainable and are leading Russia to financial disaster.

Kudrin, who is still considered close to Putin, said that he had not discussed the creation of the committee either with Putin or Medvedev, but hopes that they understand the reasons why he is doing this.

The committee strives to provide a much-sought beeline between people and "different levels of government."

The lack of the feedback between society and the government "has become a crucial problem of this country, and hopefully Putin realizes this, too," he told reporters.

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