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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Communists Greet Soviet-Era Chief

The former Latvian Communist Party chief and opponent of the Soviet breakup got a warm welcome from Moscow's top communists during a visit this week, three months after getting out of prison in Latvia, where he served six years for sedition.

Alfred Rubiks, the former first secretary of the Latvian Communist Party, supported the August 1991 coup in Moscow and was sentenced to eight years for sedition. He was released Nov. 7.

On Tuesday, he was met at Moscow's Riga Station with flowers by Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov and radical communists Viktor Anpilov and Oleg Shenin.

He was scheduled to meet Wednesday with Communist Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov. On Tuesday, he saw Moscow's noncommunist mayor, Yury Luzhkov.

Rubiks, who blames his imprisonment on his refusal to knuckle under to Latvia's post-Soviet rulers, aired his unrepentant views in an interview published Wednesday in the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper.

In the interview, he argued that the Baltics should seek security guarantees from Russia instead of joining NATO and said that things had gotten worse since Latvia ceased to be part of the Soviet Union.

"Haven't you seen how many homeless people there are in the streets?" he was quoted by Nezavisimaya Gazeta as saying. "Was it like that before? Today, 2 percent of the population is stuffing its pockets and the others hardly have enough to live on."

He added that "NATO's disbandment should be placed on the agenda. It's not needed any more. ... The dollar has become master of the world, and NATO likewise shows who's boss in the world."

Rubiks got a warm communist welcome, said political scientist Boris Kagarlitsky, because he is seen as a principled figure who refused to compromise and suffered as a result.

"He was a victim," said Kagarlitsky, who studies left-wing politics at the Institute of Comparative Political Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

"For Russian culture that is very important. Someone who suffers gets a lot of respect," he said.

"He is seen as an unshakable, really resistant person who really defended his views and went to jail," Kagarlitsky added.

Anpilov greets him as a fellow true believer, Kagarlitsky said, and Zyuganov finds it useful to be seen with him because he is trying to placate members of his own party, who are unhappy with its closer relationship to President Boris Yeltsin's government.

There has been speculation in the Russian press that Rubiks might be contemplating moving to Russia, where he could be a rival to Anpilov and Zyuganov among communists who oppose compromise with the government.

"Anpilov on the one hand will want him to be as far away as possible," Kagarlitsky said.

The political scientist said he thinks such a move is unlikely.

"For the same reason, Zyuganov can easily embrace him as well" while Rubiks is based in Latvia," Kagarlitsky said.

"He is a very positive figure for everybody as long as he is abroad," he said.