Russia’s Communists warn comrades against ‘flirting’ with Navalny, but won't expel members who sympathize with opposition figure
The uneasy relationship between Russia’s Communists and opposition figure Alexey Navalny took another turn at the weekend, when the party refused to expel members of the faction's Central Committee who openly praise the activist.
Moscow MP Valery Rashkin and former Irkutsk governor Sergei Levchenko have both backed Navalny, going against the official line of party leader Gennady Zyuganov, who once said that "no Communist will support" the jailed opposition figure's protests. However, despite some of the most prominent party members contradicting him, Zyuganov has no intent to kick them out. Instead, at the parliamentary faction's annual congress, he opted simply to remove them from the Central Committee's presidium, leaving them as members of the party.
At the same time, Novosibirsk's Communist mayor Anatoly Lokot warned his comrades against "flirting" with Navalny.Also on rt.com Russian Communist leader Zyuganov threatens to fire anti-Kremlin MP Rashkin after accusations of supporting ‘traitor’ Navalny
Speaking to the press, Zyuganov slammed both the jailed opposition figure and the Kremlin, noting his disagreements with the activist but also refusing to expel colleagues who support him. As long-time head of the party, Zyuganov is its most recognizable face and has run for president four times, coming close to victory in 1996.
"The task of Navalny and his henchmen is to provoke unrest and introduce a new provisional government in the country, which will leave Russia at the mercy of the globalists," Zyuganov said, as quoted by German state-funded outlet DW.
The split within the party on the subject of Navalny has been known for some time. Earlier this year, Zyuganov threatened to sack Rashkin after he threw his support being Nikolay Bondarenko, a regional Communist politician who was fined 20,000 rubles ($270) for having attended an unsanctioned rally in support of Navalny.
"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."
Levchenko has also publicly complimented Navalny, and earlier this year said that he could offer some lessons in "setting the agenda" for the Communist faction.
However, despite the clear intra-party disagreements, the country's incumbent authorities remain the Communists' main target. According to Zyuganov, the Kremlin is persecuting those who politically disagree with the government.
"The authorities are increasingly aggressively pursuing dissidents," Zyuganov said. "It blocks the ability to change course through elections, it intimidates citizens, and they resort to violence."
According to Ekaterinburg-based news agency URA, citing a source in the party, the decision to keep Rashkin as part of the party shows that Zyuganov is refusing to play by the Kremlin's rules.
"He is bringing the Communist Party to the status of non-systemic opposition," the source said.
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