Infighting within the Russian Communist Party that followed the imprisonment of non-parliamentary opposition figure Alexey Navalny has turned up a notch, with long-time leader Gennady Zyuganov threatening to expel a senior member.
Zyuganov’s warning come after Valery Rashkin, the head of the Communist Party’s Moscow City Committee, who spoke out on Thursday against what he called the “persecution of dissidents,”“terror against any opposition,” and “political repression.”
In particular, Rashkin came to the defense of Nikolay Bondarenko, a regional Communist politician who was fined 20,000 rubles ($270) for having attended an unsanctioned rally in support of Navalny and is now facing being kicked out of parliament.
“If Rashkin speaks for Navalny, he will be kicked out of the party!” Zyuganov told NSN Radio. “Navalny is an incendiary shell, sent here by the three intelligence agencies… don’t make a hero out of him, he’s a traitor.”
“If anyone in the Moscow city committee doesn’t understand this, we’ll quickly correct them,” he said, targeting Rashkin.
Rashkin is an outspoken member of the Communists and, unlike his leader Zyuganov, regularly takes aim at the Kremlin. Earlier this week, the politician attacked the country’s government for a “sharp deterioration in the socio-economic situation” and rising unemployment.
“The authorities will say that the Covid is to blame, but in fact, this is the result of 20 years of Putin and United Russia’s rule,” he wrote on Twitter.
On Wednesday, the politician spoke to US state-run outlet Current Time, a registered foreign agent. In the interview, Rashkin repeated Navalny’s oft-uttered phrase, that the ruling United Russia faction is the ‘Party of Crooks and Thieves’ and drew attention to what he sees as the “political persecution of all opposition-minded citizens.”
While the Communist MP caused uproar within the party leadership, he has gained notoriety elsewhere. On Wednesday, journalist and former MP Alexander Nevzorov predicted that Rashkin would eventually take the “red crown” and take Zyuganov’s place.
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