Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Seleznyov Kicks Off Pro-Putin Rossya

State Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov was set to launch a new political movement Saturday in what looks like a split in the ranks of the Communist Party he currently represents.

At a news conference Thursday, Seleznyov described the new organization called Rossya, or Russia, a "left-center movement," which supports President Vladimir Putin.

Seleznyov, who was the No. 2 candidate on the Communist Party's national list for last December's Duma elections, said he was retaining his Communist Party membership.

"Seleznyov is not trying to cause a schism," he said.

But the Communist leadership has made it clear they are not happy about Seleznyov's group.

Party leader Gennady Zyuganov has said the formation of Rossya with Seleznyov at its head is "inexpedient."

"The Communists don't usually air their dirty laundry in public," the weekly Obshchaya Gazeta observed Thursday. "But Seleznyov's move is hurting the party extremely sharply."

In a draft of a declaration to be adopted at the founding conference Saturday, organizers called for cooperation with the Kremlin.

"The political results of the past decade demand that the left forces of Russia reconsider their strategy," the declaration reads. "The new patriotic orientation brought to political life by the country's newleadership allows us to count on constructive cooperation on many vital issues."

In his post as Duma speaker, Seleznyov has already supported Putin on many key issues, including the Kremlin's legislative initiatives to rein in the regions. He also shepherded through the START II arms reduction treaty f something he declined to do for Yeltsin, who signed the treaty in 1993.

Seleznyov endorsed the arrest of media mogul Vladimir Gusinsky and on Thursday reiterated his support of the crackdown on the so-called oligarchs.

"If the prosecutor's office really collects evidence and carries this out, that would be the most important thing," he said. "I'm afraid that it will be like it always is and they'll find some reason to close the cases."

Putin has also been kind to Seleznyov. In January, then-acting President Putin endorsed Seleznyov in his unsuccessful race for Moscow region governor. Later that month, the pro-Kremlin Unity party supported Seleznyov's bid for Duma speaker.

Many observers have speculated that the Kremlin is behind the formation of Rossya and that the goal is to weaken the Communist Party and create an obedient opposition.