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Russian Liberals Launch Pro-Kremlin Party

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russian liberals launched a new pro-Kremlin political party on November 16 promising to defend middle class values but rivals said it was just a tool for the authorities to suck support away from genuine opposition groups.

At a meeting in a Moscow hotel leaders of the Right Cause party said they aimed to win seats at Russia's parliamentary election in 2011 under the slogan: "Freedom, property, order."

"Today in the official political arena there is no respectful, credible political party projecting the right's ideas," one of the new party's leaders, Leonid Gozman, said of the new political alliance, according to Interfax news agency.

"Now we are in the same boat and success has to be shared."

But opponents accuse the SPS of selling out to the Kremlin, which may potentially need the Right Cause to cushion itself from anti-government feelings, especially during a global financial crisis which has hit Russia hard.

"This marks the end of these liberal organizations and of what remained of their independence in politics," Eduard Limonov, one of the leaders of the opposition group Other Russia, told Interfax.

The Right Cause is an amalgamation of the opposition Union of Right Forces (SPS) with the broadly pro-Kremlin Democratic Party and Civic Force.

The SPS -- set up by pro-Western reformers -- won no seats in last year's parliamentary election and did not field a candidate in the presidential election this year.

Earlier this month the SPS said it was joining the pro-Kremlin alliance because that was the only way it could survive.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is hugely popular in Russia and his Unified Russia party dominates the Russian parliament. Other than the Communists, opposition parties have struggled to win significant support.