Pavel Grudinin, a Russian entrepreneur and Communist Party candidate who is banned by electoral officials in the upcoming parliamentary election, speaks during an interview at his office in the Sovkhoz Imeny Lenin settlement outside Moscow, Russia September 13, 2021. Image was taken on September 13, 2021. Reuters/Tatyana Makeyeva
September 15, 2021
by Maria Tsvetkova
LENIN FARMS, MOSCOW region (Reuters) – A wealthy communist strawberry tycoon, who came second behind Vladimir Putin in the last presidential election, has accused officials of using his family against him to stop him from running for parliament this week .
Pavel Grudinin, 60, a former Putin supporter, attracted more than 8.5 million votes in 2018 when he ran against Putin and has long been touted as the likely leader of the Communists, the second-largest party in parliament.
Grudinin would not run in the September 17–19 parliamentary election, however, after the Central Election Commission (CEC) refused to register him in July.
This happened when his ex-wife Irina wrote to the CEC about what she said was her ex-husband’s ownership of foreign assets, which she and the Communists denied. It is illegal for electoral candidates to hold foreign financial interests.
The divorced couple’s eldest son, Artyom, joined the ruling United Russia party at the local council ranks, becoming his father’s political rival in the electoral race.
“When you’re betrayed by your relatives, it’s always bad,” Grudinin told Reuters in an interview at the Soviet-era Vladimir Lenin Strawberry Farm.
“We are being ruled by bad deeds. These are secret methods. This is scum because you should not involve women and children in any war.”
The Kremlin and the United Russia Party deny any role in the CEC’s candidate registration process, and the Electoral Commission maintains that it is a non-political body guided by Russian law alone.
Lawyers for Grudinin’s ex-wife Irina said at a news conference in July that she wanted to derail her ex-husband’s election campaign because she was concerned that he would use political power for his business or other interests, or that of their son Artyom. to hurt the interests.
In a letter to the CEC published in the Russian press at that time, Irina Grudinina said that her attempt to stop her husband was a “cry from the soul.”
Neither he nor Artyom responded to a request for comment.
The CEC said it based its decision to ban him on documents from the prosecutor general’s office that showed he had a stake in Bontro, a Belize-registered company. Grudinin told Reuters the documents were not genuine and false.
He admitted that he was once a co-owner of Bontro, through which he and his partners controlled a stake in the strawberry farm he ran. But he said he disposed of his stake in 2017 and the company was spun off the following year. He said he had no affiliation with any company listed by the same name on the Belize Corporate Register.
His ban from the election broke an unspoken rule of Russian politics in the Putin era, until Communists were exempted from choosing candidates to avoid harsh criticism of Putin.
The pro-Putin United Russia party, which has won every parliamentary election since Putin came to power, is widely expected to maintain its dominance. But its popularity ratings have plummeted, and opponents say the Kremlin is working harder than ever to keep challengers off the ballot.
Allies of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny have urged Russia to vote for communists to harm United Russia. Opinion polls show that the Communists are likely to retain their position as the second largest party.
“The United Russia brand now causes irritation because all the decline in the standard of living over the past five years was linked to votes in the State Duma,” said Grudinin. “Since they (officials) have nothing more to say, they crack down on their opponents.”
(Reporting by Maria Svetkova; Editing by Andrew Osborne and Peter Graf)