- The Washington Times - Monday, July 5, 2004


MOSCOW — The Russian Communist Party, racked by falling popularity and charges of corruption, has split amid bitter public bickering.

After months of acrimony, a faction led by legislator Gennady Simigin has broken away from the party, accusing its leaders of corruption and inefficiency.

The break meant that two communist congresses were held in Moscow over the weekend, underlining President Vladimir Putin’s dominance of the political scene.

One took place in a large hall where the lights mysteriously failed even as Gennady Zyuganov, the veteran leader who almost won a mandate to return Russia to a command economy in the 1990s, was trying to rally the faithful.

The other, led by Mr. Simigin and attended by around 50 delegates, was held on a boat. Both factions said yesterday that they were appealing to the Justice Ministry for recognition as the official Communist Party. Mr. Zyuganov described the alternative congress as a “provocation.”

The party was popular during the 1990s, but lost many of its voters with Mr Putin’s ascent to power.

Sergei Potapov, one of the breakaway members, said his faction would present their documents to the courts within 10 days. “We don’t want a split,” he said. “All we want is to protect the party from rogues and lickspittles.”

If Mr. Zyuganov’s faction loses, he said, the new Communist Party will pay greater attention to the needs of the working class.

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