A previous MEMRI report described a split in the liberal camp over whether to support the imprisoned anti-corruption fighter and opposition figure Alexei Navalny. The Navalny case has also caused a schism on the opposite side of the opposition spectrum – the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. The Communists are part of the "systemic opposition" that is allowed seats in the Duma. The party's leader Gennady Zyuganov has attacked Navalny savagely calling him "a traitor who intended to set the country on fire. Therefore, all measures of state influence must be applied to such arsonists." Zyuganov fears a situation where the Kremlin will exclude the Communists from Duma representation and apply repressive measures to the party, and has steered a course of tame if not supine opposition.
Zyuganov's policy has been challenged by the head of the Moscow party organization, the Duma deputy Valery Rashkin. Rashkin has challenged the government on persecution of dissidents and has supported the pro-Navalny demonstrations. Following the arrests at the demonstrations, Rashkin appealed to the public and to journalists who were injured by the security police at the demonstrations to turn to the Communist Party for assistance:
"If OMON [Special Purpose Mobile Unit] or the National Guard officers beat you for nothing, if you were tortured, feel free to contact the Communist Party. If you, as a journalist, were detained, despite your ID and editorial assignment, feel free to contact the Communist Party."
Rashkin sought to identify the Communist Party as the go-to forum for handling civil rights infringements: "We [the Communist party] always urge an independent media and the public to work together for the protection of fundamental human and civil rights...It is important to stand up not only for your colleagues and supporters, but also for those who need help. It is not surprising that we receive complaints about police violence from all over the country. "
Another striking action taken by Rashkin was the complaint that he filed with Russia's prosecutor-general against one of the Kremlin's most important surrogates Vladimir Solovyov, host of "Evening with Vladimir Solovyov" on Russia's first channel. As part of the Navalny-bashing campaign, Solovyov compared Navalny unfavorably with Adolf Hitler. Solovyov called Hitler, "a very brave man who [unlike Navalny] did not hide from the call to military service" and "fought valiantly during the First World War." This, said Rashkin made Solovyov liable under the Russian law prohibiting the rehabilitation of Nazism. 
Rashkin's support for Navalny has infuriated Zyuganov, who threatened disciplinary action against Rashkin: "One should not make a hero out of Navalny; he is a traitor. If somebody in the Moscow City Communist Part does not understand this, we will correct him quickly." 
When questioned by party members about rumors that the Communist red star atop of one of the Kremlin towers would soon be replaced by the double eagle of tsarist times, Zyuganov shot back: "Considering that Valery Rashkin is not only the head of the Moscow organization of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, but also a world-renowned mountain climber, let Rashkin climb, check and see." Despite Zyuganov's bluster, an attempt to expel Rashkin could backfire as one source explained: " If Zyuganov tries to overthrow him, he will destroy the most powerful branch of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation in the country, and in the wake of the conflict he himself may lose his post."
Rashkin (l) and Zyuganov (Source: U-fu-ru)
What motivates Rashkin in his support for Navalny and the demonstrators? He is one of the party's regional leaders, who want the party to be more outspoken in its opposition to the government and particularly on social issues. Rashkin knows that many of the younger party activists identify with Navalny's left populism. Additionally, the "smart voting" strategy advocated by Navalny, under which opponents of the regime would vote for the candidate best placed to defeat the candidate of the United Russia Party, frequently worked to the Communist Party's advantage. Zyuganov wants no part of it but other Communist leaders see the advantages of the arrangement.
But, there could be another motivation. Rashkin may believe that Zyuganov's policy of lying low is not working; the regime was coming for the Communists in any case. In an article for Echo of Moscow, Rashkin compared the terror under Putin to the Oprichnina under Ivan the Terrible, that involved executions and expropriation of property all designed to consolidate Ivan's absolute power. In a bit of hyperbole, Rashkin even claimed that the current repression exceeded the Stalinist terror of the 1930s. Rashkin's accusations drew the ire of Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, who argued that if the Russian state was guilty of terror, then Rashkin as a Duma deputy was complicit as well.
Below is a translation of Rashkin's article:
Valery Rashkin (Source: Msk.kprf.ru)
"Today during the State Duma's plenary session I addressed a topic that for quite some time, has truly been the most discussed, most relevant and most painful for the absolute majority of reasonable people.
"This is the topic of the persecution of dissidents, the political repression and terror against ANY [caps original] opposition and the voicing of any opinion that runs counter to the current government's policy.
"Among all of my fellow deputies I, like no one else, have the right to raise this problem and talk about it for several reasons. Firstly, because I participate in ALL [caps original] rallies in support of political prisoners without exception, regardless of their ideological positions. Secondly, because for several years I have been consistently arguing from the Duma tribune that in the 21st century there should be no such thing as political prisoners and I was proposing bills to decriminalize protests. Thirdly, I publicly opposed political terror and the persecution of dissidents, even when my point of view contravened the position of my fellow party members and the party leadership [Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF)].
"I think that these arguments would be enough to convince opponents that I have the moral right to speak on this topic and that I can speak objectively. For those who still in doubts, [I'll recall, that] I even defended the [Khabarovsk Krai] governor Sergei Furgal, although we were bitter opponents on many issues.
"I will not repeat my speech at the Duma plenary session verbatim, after all, it is available in the recording and its fragments were quoted by various media outlets. [Instead] I'll focus only on what I believe to be some of the main theses.
"The current Russian authorities, with their punitive policy, have long crossed a certain limit of "reasonable admissibility" of punitive policy towards everything that even in the slightest differs from the frameworks, criteria, prohibitions, etc. introduced by them. The current political terror has no rational explanations, it has no reasonable boundaries; this terror has a sort of sacred significance and absolutely irrational expression.
"In order to illustrate my point, I will remind you of the latest case, in which a court sentenced a deaf-mute man for shouting of "anti-government slogans" [during the protests]. This is a graphic example of what is going on in our lives, literally by the window. These butchers [security officials] "grabbed" a deaf-mute passer-by, accusing him of shouting slogans. And the judge, without blinking an eye, passed the sentence, looking into the face of the invalid, who could not even answer her.
"The political repressions of 1937 are considered to be the absolute "benchmark" of political terror. However, the today's Russian political system has long outdone any modern era historical analogues. Something similar to what is happening now can only be found in the Middle Ages and at the Inquisition trials. For example, the practice where children and blood relatives of the leaders of rival clans or tribes are hold as hostages. In modern Russia, this practice is widely and ubiquitously used. As an example, I will recall a case related to the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) (because today I speak as a representative of the Communist Party, which is an integral part of the Russian opposition).
"The most striking example of the practice to seize relatives of political opponents as 'hostages' is the arrest of Andrey Levchenko, who is the son of the former Irkutsk oblast governor. Since September 28, Andrey Levchenko has been in a pre-trial detention center, despite the fact that no legal decision has yet been made to treat him as a defendant. Andrei Levchenko himself is the leader of the KPRF faction in the of the Irkutsk Oblast Legislative Assembly t. The "criminal case" that was made up against Andrey Levchenko overnight, doesn't have a shred of proof of his involvement in any criminal activity. However, Andrei Levchenko is still behind the bars, in violation of all procedural norms.
"It is obvious to all that the only reason and purpose of his arrest is to prevent his father, the former governor of the Irkutsk oblast Sergey Georgievich Levchenko, from a return to active politics. Levchenko's son, Andrey was arrested immediately after it became known that Sergei Georgievich Levchenko might become a member of the State Duma. So, a plan was devised to take a family member hostage. This is the reality of today's Russia.
I do not detach the arrest of Andrei Levchenko, the arrest of Nikolai Platoshkin, the arrest of Sergei Furgal from dozens of detained and arrested participants in the rallies and marches of dissenters. All these cases are manifestation of the modern oprichnina [state policy of mass repression during the times of the Russian Tsar Ivan the Terrible], whose goal is to completely cut down any "political shoots" that differs from [state's] fungal mass, that has filled and permeate with its poisonous mycelium every [political] space.
"When I talk about political repression, about real terror instituted against dissidents, this is not just a figure of speech, and this is not an artistic metaphor. I will provide you with some facts, which won't probably be mentioned in the pro-Kremlin news
"In Moscow on August 29 of the last year, a savage beating of Komsomol members, 'Limonovites' [members of the National Bolshevik Party] and members of the AKM [The Vanguard of Red Youth] took place, [the victims] had participated in a meeting (which was held in the public reception of the Communist Party on Avtozavodskaya Street) dedicated to the preparation of the 'Anti-capitalism 2005' youth march. 23 masked people, armed with clubs, non-lethal guns and explosives, were involved in the attack. They were brought to the scene of the attack by bus. As a result of the attack, 6 left-wing activists were seriously injured, two of them were later brought to the hospital in critical condition, with fractured arms and skulls.
"Literally a week later, on September 6, in Krasnoyarsk, unknown assailants attacked a group of activists from the Union of Communist Youth (6 people) [SKM], headed by Yury Baranov, secretary of the Leninsky District Committee of the SKM. Three attackers, armed with bats and hammers, without a word, began beating up the young people. This assault was occurring only a few meters from a parked traffic police car, whose employees pretended not to notice the crime. What's more, when the attackers encountered resistance from the victims, one of the criminals even asked law enforcement officer (who was a standing nearby) for his cell phone and was able to summon reinforcements.
"On September 7, in the city of Oryol, Sergei Anatolyevich Bykov second secretary of the Oryol regional committee of the KPRF, member of the party Central Committee, deputy of the regional People's Deputies Council was attacked at the entrance to his own home. It should be noted that, this was a second attempt on the life and health of Sergei Bykov. The criminals, as usual, have not been identified. The reason for the repeated attacks on Sergei Bykov is obvious: it is his active social and political work.
"On the night of September 9, unidentified men torched the premises of the KPRF Novomoskovsk city committee of the Tula region. As a result, documents required for the participation in the election campaign to the municipal representative bodies were destroyed.
"On September 11, in the Moscow suburb of Noginsk, my assistant Pavel Tarasov was detained by the police officers, after a sanctioned rally organized by the Noginsk branch of the SKM. Pavel Tarasov, assistant to the deputy and secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, was injured by Ministry of Internal Affairs employees.
"On September 11, in the city of Samara, 30 activists of leftist youth organizations were detained during the 'Anti-Capitalism 2005' march. The activists wanted to draw the attention of local authorities to the problem of deteriorating standard of living in Samara oblast. The detainees were treated extremely cruelly: they were beaten up; their clothes were torn off. For 24 hours they were kept in a cold room of a pre-trial detention center.
"Please note, I am listing the chronicle of terror, that happened in just two weeks during the fall of the year 2020. However, such terror occurs every day, and its victims number in the thousands. And I'm talking not only about illegal detentions, beatings and torture.
Abductions, political murders also have long been part of [political] practice of modern Russian oprichnina. To date, the institutions of the Prosecutor's Office and Ministry of Internal Affairs have not solved the following crimes:
"The murder of V.S. Martemyanov, deputy of the State Duma of the Russian Federation (Moscow);
"The murder of Sadykov R.S., first secretary of the Buinsky Regional Committee of KPRF (Republic of Tatarstan);
"The murder of Lyukhatan E.V., employee of the mayor's office at the city of Pskov, member of KPRF (Pskov);
"The disappearance of Snitko Y.N., candidate deputy for the Zvenigorod City Council (Moscow oblast);
"The murder of KPRF member Stekhov V.I. and his family (Georgievsk, Stavropol krai);
"The robbery and assault of Bykov S.A., deputy of the regional council of the Oryol region, and of Belyaev E.I., member of the KPRF;
"The beating of KPRF members Istomin A.A., Savina A.I., Rastegaev V.I. (Bryansk region);
Assault and grievous bodily harm to Merkushev A.A., secretary of the Karelian republican committee of the KPRF and to Stepanov V.L., NBP member [National Bolshevik Party] (the party's activities are prohibited in the Russian Federation.) at the Park Kultury metro station (Moscow);
"Robbery and assault on participants in the evening dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Kaliningrad from the Nazis, committed on the premises of the October District Committee of the KPRF (Kaliningrad);
"Robbery and assault on the participants of the meeting 'Anti-capitalism 2005' committed on the premises of the public reception room of the Communist deputies of the State Duma of the Russian Federation at the Avtozavodskaya street (Moscow).
"Once again, I apologize for talking mainly about members of the KPRF. But I repeat, this [terror] is an integral part of the Russian opposition's existence, which today undergoes genuine political repression. And these cases are important.
"The worst thing, in my opinion, is that political terror in Russia has become routine. The screeching and whining of a punitive machine [of Russian authorities] is perceived just as naturally, as the monotonous hum of a vacuum cleaner in a neighboring apartment or a coffee grinder behind the wall. Recently, we lamented the fate of Sergei Mokhnatkin, who was 'ground up' by the modern oprichnina's 'coffee grinder'. Who will now remember Sergei Mokhnatkin? Hundreds and thousands of new victims were sent down the 'gullet' of the punitive machine."
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 9184, Russian Liberal Politician Yavlinsky Ruptures The Opposition's Solidarity Behind Navalny, Accuses Navalny Of Nationalism And Populism, February 17, 2021.
 Mk.ru, February 19, 2021.
 Kommersant.ru, February 5, 2021.
 Rbc.ru, February 16, 2021.
 Mk.ru, February 19, 2021
 Vzsar.ru, February 20, 2021.
 Ura.ru, February 20, 2021.
 Themoscowtimes.com, February 12, 2020.
 Tass.ru, February 16, 2021.
 Echo.msk.ru, February 16, 2021.