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Moscow ex-mayor starting movement to promote more democracy

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Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and a leader of the Solidarnost anti-Kremlin coalition, says it's been barely a month since he and 70 others were arrested after Luzhkov sent ranks of armored riot police to smash a small "freedom of assembly" rally his organization tried to hold on Moscow's central Triumph Square.

"It seems like everyone who retires from [Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin's camp immediately wants to transform himself into a champion of democracy," says Mr. Nemtsov. "But we do have functioning memories. We remember how Luzhkov established censorship on Moscow's TV airwaves, how he organized fraudulent elections in Moscow last year to ensure victory for the [pro-Kremlin] United Russia party, and how he used the courts to crush us."

In his interview, Luzhkov said he wasn't going to bother utilizing his constitutional right to appeal his dismissal to the Supreme Court. "I can't imagine that the Supreme Court will make a ruling that would contradict the presidential order," he said.

That's an amazing admission, says Mr. Nemtsov, whose own intensely critical book about Luzhkov's 18-year tenure in Moscow, titled "Luzhkov: The Results," landed him in a Luzhkov-run Moscow court, where he was convicted of libel.

"I have been up against Luzhkov in Moscow courts 22 times over the years," says Nemtsov. "And every time they ruled against me, Luzhkov would say that Moscow courts are completely open and fair. Now he says he wouldn't trust his own fate to a Russian court."

Some experts believe that Luzhkov, who was rated favorably by more than 60 percent of Muscovites in a November 2009 poll, could have a political impact if he's serious about going into public opposition.

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