Russian politics has long been predictable, with the systemic opposition to the Kremlin led by two parties – the nationalist LDPR and the Communists. Meanwhile, West-leaning liberals have found themselves outside the tent.
Now the leaders of the two parties are fighting over a figure so far removed from the system that he was even booted out of the country’s leading liberal party over his xenophobic views – jailed activist Alexey Navalny.
Speaking last week to Radio Komsomolskaya Pravda, LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky accused the Communist Party of working together with Navalny’s supporters. Zhirinovsky pointed to Communist cooperation with the activist’s backers during elections, when the authorities didn’t want to accept observers from the Navalny team. According to the veteran firebrand, they obtained Communist Party ID badges.
“They were issued with identification cards, but they put their names on them. And stood at polling stations,” Zhirinovsky said. “There has long been cooperation. This is the cooperation of the rebels! People who want sedition, who want us to have barricades, a red banner!”
When challenged by the interviewer on the Communists’ recent lack of willingness to rock the boat or call people out to rallies, Zhirinovsky pointed to “constant threats against the Kremlin” by their leader, Gennady Zyuganov.
Last week, YouTube star Nikolay Bondarenko, who also represents the Communist Party in a regional parliament, was arrested and charged after taking part in a rally in support of Navalny on January 31.
In response, Zyuganov went on radio station Govorit Moskva (Moscow Speaks) to reject the accusations, instead accusing the LDPR leader of working with Navalnyites.
“Listen less to Zhirinovsky. His suggestions always have a bad smell,” Zyuganov said. “We have long been accustomed to Zhirinovsky’s provocative statements. They are always characterized by deceit and filth.”
In Zyuganov’s opinion, the LDPR head is “playing along” with Navalny supporters and is not focused on improving the country, which Zyuganov believes is at war with the US.
“For us, the main meaning of life has always been Russia, the working people, and the well-being of those who live in our vast expanses.”
While activist Navalny has dominated the headlines in recent weeks, the Communists and LDPR are the two most popular political parties, with a recent opinion poll giving them 11.1 percent and 9.6 percent of support, respectively. The pro-President Vladimir Putin party United Russia remains in first place, with 31 percent.
Zhirinovsky and Zyuganov have long been leaders of their parties and have both been presidential candidates on numerous occasions. Zhirinovsky first ran in 1991, coming third behind winner Boris Yeltsin. In 1996, Zyuganov almost became Russian president, taking the incumbent Yeltsin to a run-off.
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