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The ‘undesirable candidate’ Russia’s Communists flirt with real politics again in their fight for Pavel Grudinin

Source: Meduza
Vladimir Andreev / URA.RU / TASS

The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) says it’s mobilizing supporters for nationwide protests against election officials’ decision not to register the party’s former presidential candidate, Pavel Grudinin, on its parliamentary ticket, this September. Last week, sources close to the Putin administration told Meduza that the Kremlin decided in advance to block Grudinin’s candidacy this fall after KPRF head Gennady Zyuganov refused to coordinate with Putin’s office. The Kremlin also holds a serious grudge against Grudinin for performing a little too well in Russia’s 2018 presidential race.

The name Pavel Grudinin was supposed to appear third on KPRF’s party ticket in September, after Zyuganov and former cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya. Russia’s Central Election Commission killed Grudinin’s inclusion on the list based on a determination by the Attorney General’s Office that he owns shares in a Belize-based company (which prevents him from seeking elected office). 

Grudinin says he ditched those assets in April 2017. In fact, the firm itself, “Bontro Ltd.” ceased to exist in 2019. But election officials say they must obey the Attorney General’s Office, which apparently bases its findings on allegations filed by Grudinin’s ex-wife, whom Grudinin says has “fallen under the influence” of United Russia, the country’s ruling political party. Curiously, the same lawyers who defended Dmitry Medvedev against Alexey Navalny’s corruption allegations are now working for Grudinin’s ex-wife.

The family betrayal doesn’t end there. Grudinin’s own son, Artem, turned against him in February 2019, when officials stripped the former KPRF presidential nominee of his position as the speaker of the Vidnoe City Council by merging the town with another and forcing new elections. Artem won a seat in that municipal group by campaigning against his father. After the election, he even joined United Russia.

A source close to the Kremlin told Meduza that officials in the Putin administration now consider Pavel Grudin to be persona non grata. His nomination on KPRF’s party ticket was all the more outrageous, says the source, because Gennady Zyuganov wouldn’t discuss the matter with anyone but Putin himself (refusing meetings with First Deputy Chief of Staff Sergey Kiriyenko and “even” Chief of Staff Anton Vaino). “Zyuganov was daring [the Kremlin], and they had to make him understand that nobody would play with him like that,” explains Meduza’s source.

In his political career over the past three years, Grudinin has gone from Kremlin-approved presidential nominee to “undesirable candidate.” Initially, President Putin’s political strategists thought he would alienate KPRF’s traditional base while safely raising general interest in the race. But Grudinin was popular on the campaign trail — not popular enough to win, of course, but enough to dent the wide victory margin Putin’s team wanted. To Kremlin officials, Grudinin had crossed the line, a senior official on Putin’s re-election team once told Meduza.

And they’ll never forgive him.

We won’t give up Because you’re with us

Story by Andrey Pertsev

Summary by Kevin Rothrock

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