Hi-Profile Russian Communist MP Is an Anti-Lockdown Insurgent

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Under Russia’s COVID protocols virtually all public demonstrations are banned. There isn’t a blanket ban, but in practice the permit is almost never given (except at times to United Russia-friendly events). In effect, the Russians have lost the right of peaceful assembly.
Or they would have, but for one man. Valery Rashkin, a Communist Party MP from Moscow. Time and time again he has helped Moscovites hold rallies by attending them and dubbing them “meetings with an MP” which are legally protected. 
In this way he has not only shielded and made possible Communist Party events, but all manner of other social protest. For example rallies of apartment-building residents against Sobyanin’s policy of tearing down Khrushchev-era low flats and resettling the residents in high-rise replacement buildings, which is done whether all residents agree to the scheme or not. (Moscovites widely regard the policy of bulldozing their beloved neighborhoods as a way for Sobyanin to earn massive kickbacks from the “construction mafia”.)
He attacked Sobyanin for revoking public transport discounts for unvaccinated pensioners, and has penned anti-mask and anti-forced-vaccine columns.
Since February 2015 he is on an EU sanctions list over his support for rebel Donbass. Since April 2016 he is sanctioned by the US as well.
One write up from June put it this way:
In 2021, only three forms of street activism have been possible in Moscow: “Navalnings” (such as in January and April), “Putings” (such as in March) and “Rashkings,” named in honor of Communist MP Valery Rashkin, who does not get tired of defying the de facto ban on rallies by holding “meetings with an MP” (that is, with himself), since by law such meetings do not require prior authorization.
This spring alone, Volja has written several times about progressive “Rashkings” (against infill construction in Kuntsevo; against the planned demolition of the Palace of Young Pioneers; and, no less than four times, against the law banning educational outreach activities; in particular, I published an overall report and a separate remark about provocateurs).

It is clear that the Communist Party as a whole does not arouse much interest among political observers, but it seems that Rashkin is something special.
And a report from February for some context on the circumstances:

The Moscow City Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation will bring its supporters to the demonstration and rally on February 23, despite the fact that the rally is not authorized by the authorities, the first secretary of the city committee, State Duma deputy Valery Rashkin told Kommersant.
According to him, the mayor’s office did not offer alternative options, as required by law, so the event can be considered sanctioned. However, in the regions, the communists are not ready for unauthorized actions. The retaliatory measures will depend on the behavior of the demonstrators, a Kommersant source in the Moscow mayor’s office warned. 
“On February 23 we have a holiday, the Communist Party has made applications to hold processions and rallies throughout the country, and the authorities refuse almost everywhere.
Why artificially provoke collisions? We never break laws. 
Let’s allow rallies, including in Moscow, from Pushkin Square to Teatralnaya. We invite all factions.”
Recall that on February 8, the Moscow City Committee of the Communist Party applied for a demonstration of 5,000 people on Strastnoy Boulevard, followed by a rally on Teatralnaya Square. However, the capital’s regional security department did not authorize it due to the continued high alert due to the coronavirus epidemic. The mayor’s office reminded that the organizers and participants of the action can be held accountable.
However, Valery Rashkin is sure that the department’s response can be interpreted as consent to hold a demonstration and rally, since it does not contain specific proposals to change the place, time, form and other conditions of the event, which is provided for by the federal law “On Assemblies”.
“Therefore, we can conduct the promotion as indicated in our notice. In the end, it cannot be that during a pandemic, only flash mobs in support of the president can be carried out, “Mr. Rashkin told Kommersant.

Rashkin has been elected to the Duma five times and is the leading personality of Communists in Moscow City. Albeit a high-placed and long-serving member, he is considered a radical in the Party, who wants the outfit to be a true foe of United Russia and actually contest for power rather than just play-act at it. He has butted heads with the Party leadership over this, and has been purged from the Central Committee presidium earlier this year for it. (Nominally it was for his defense of a party colleague who was harshly disciplined by the Party for marching in a pro-Navalny protest.)
Ahead of the 2021 Parliamentary election, which is not looking great for United Russia responsible for lockdowns last year and coerced vaccinations this year, the authorities have barred a number of Communist candidates from running, most notably Pavel Grudinin who was the Party’s 2018 candidate for Russian President. The government banned him on the grounds that he owns foreign stock abroad (in Belize) albeit he says that he had divested himself years ago.
The Party’s reaction to the bans has been less than fully animated, to Rashkin’s displeasure.
Rashkin actually sought the Communist nomination for the 2018 Presidential election himself and ran far to the left of Grudinin. The latter is a businessman whom the Party ran as a way to appeal to voters outside its base.

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