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Egg and fruit greeting for United Russia leader
Boris Gryzlov, chairman of United Russia, was pelted with eggs and fruit as he addressed a party gathering in the Kremlin concert hall on Wednesday. After the assailants, reportedly, from the extremist National Bolshevik Party, were removed from the hall, the smiling party leader announced that he was resigning as interior minister. He is widely expected to become the speaker in the new Duma. Some 2,000 United Russia activists gathered for their 4th congress. The party leaders, including Sergei Shoigu, Boris Gryzlov, Yuri Luzhkov and Mintimer Shaimiyev, sat in silence on the stage as the delegates and guests of the congress filled the hall. The first to address the congress was Gryzlov himself. His measured voice, erupting all of a sudden from loudspeakers clearly caught the delegates off-guard. ''Taking part in today’s congress are over 2,000 delegates from all regions of the country, State Duma deputies and the members of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly, leaders of the constituent parts of the federation, public organizations, supporters of the United Russia party… As you can see, we have the required quorum to begin the work of our congress…'' Boris Gryzlov then suggested that the delegates vote in favour of beginning the congress. No-one objected. After the delegates listened to the national anthem, the composition of the presidium, the members of which had already gathered on the stage, was endorsed unanimously. In his opening address to the congress Gryzlov solemnly announced that for the first time in the many years of development of parliamentarian rule in Russia the leading political party had secured a majority in the lower house. ''For the first time in the history of Russia a politically responsible legislative power has emerged. This power was born on 7 December 2003,” he claimed. “I would like to express special gratitude to the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin,'' Gryzlov said, as the conference hall burst into applause. As Gryzlov was saying that the party, like the president, had made the task of ensuring economic growth a key priority in its election programme, his speech was briefly interrupted by eggs and fruit being hurled at the minister. The eggs smashed against the rostrum and splattered the minister’s suit. One of the three assailants managed to get on the stage as a guard, who had run to head the young man off, was hit in the face and fell. By this time more guards started to appear and the intruders were eventually detained and removed from the hall. A grinning Gryzlov thanked the delegates for their ''understanding'' and proceeded with his speech. With his suit slightly spattered with egg, Boris Gryzlov pledged his party’s support to Vladimir Putin in the presidential elections in March. ''Our duty and most important political task is to support his candidature in the presidential election and to ensure a convincing victory,'' Gryzlov said to resounding applause. The decision to support Putin was endorsed unanimously by the favourite party of the president. Then Gryzlov called on his colleagues not to rest on their laurels but to apply every effort to ensure United Russia’s victory in the legislative assemblies throughout the regions (elections are to be held in 37 regions soon). Addressing a news briefing during the break, Gryzlov reported that as many as 298 deputies of the State Duma have applied for membership in the United Russia faction. ''Deputies sharing our views have applied for membership in the faction, and so far we have 298 such applications,'' Gryzlov stressed. Thus, United Russia is just two seats short of forming a two-thirds majority – the amount needed in the Duma to approve changes to the Constitution. Given the importance of that majority for the Kremlin, there is little doubt that by the first session of the new State Duma, the party of power will manage to increase the number to 300. It is worth noting that Gryzlov understands that now he will bear the responsibility for all the decisions in the lower house, however unpopular they may be. At the end of the briefing Gryzlov announced that he had tendered his resignation for his post of the interior minister. At a closed session of the United Russia faction held following the congress, Gryzlov was unanimously elected the head of the faction and nominated as parliamentary speaker.
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