‘Kremlin tricked me,’ says Russian anti-Putin communist star caught with elk blood on his hands
With Alexei Navalny in prison and his closest allies on the run abroad, Communists led by Mr Rashkin, a staunch supporter of Navalny, spearheaded protests against vote rigging in the September elections and openly accused Vladimir Putin of persecuting his political rivals.
In what was believed to be poaching evidence, a video posted by the Baza outlet showed Mr Rashkin dressed in what could be hunting clothes, saying he was going to report the discovery of a dead moose. He appears disoriented and monosyllabic.
But Mr Rashkin later said he was visiting friends in the countryside when he walked through the woods and saw a car pull away.
“I approached this place and saw the elk – an almost entirely slaughtered elk carcass,” he told RTVi, adding that he then returned to his friends. and suggested that they go take the carcass to the police.
He said as they approached the area they were surrounded by a “horde of FSB officers, police and foresters”.
The state-run Tass news agency which initially reported the incident without naming Mr Rashkin claimed the man was drunk.
Mr Rashkin denied the allegations, saying he refused to take a breathalyzer test, fearing the results could be faked.
The Communist Party said on Friday that the incident, which was first reported by pro-Kremlin Telegram channels, had the hallmarks of a smear campaign against the popular lawmaker.
By a remarkable coincidence, Mr. Rashkin was detained in the Saratov region, the epicenter of prison torture in Russia.
Communists have called for a parliamentary inquiry into the video leak involving officials at Saratov prison – a motion that was quashed by the pro-Kremlin party last week.
Gennady Zyuganov, the 77-year-old Communist leader, has been caught in the crossfire between grassroots Communist activists, who are more inclined to blame President Putin for the declining economy, and the Kremlin for allegedly stepping up pressure on M Zyuganov to slow down among his allies.