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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Zyuganov Says Putin is a Tsar and Pharaoh

Itar-TassCommunist leader Gennady Zyuganov and party first deputy chairman Ivan Melnikov voting during the party's congress on Saturday. Stories, Page 3.
MOSKOVSKY, Moscow Region -- Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov took aim at President Vladimir Putin's grip on power at a party congress Saturday and ridiculed the chances of "artificial parties" to bleed votes away from his party.

Zyuganov told about 300 delegates gathered at the Scientific Methodological Center in the former state-farm town of Moskovsky, 20 kilometers south of Moscow, that Putin had gathered enormous power in his hands.

"[Putin] has more power today than the pharaoh in Egypt, the tsar and the Soviet Union's general secretary had combined," Zyuganov said.

With the latest polls suggesting that his party was headed for a better showing than in the last State Duma elections, in 2003, Zyuganov told delegates that the Kremlin-backed socialist party, A Just Russia, would not succeed in taking votes from the Communist Party, or KPRF.

"The difference between us and them is that we are a real party. Someone in the Kremlin wants us to get only 14 percent," said Zyuganov, whose party's 162,000 members make it the country's second largest, after United Russia.

"Look at [A Just Russia]. What can it do for the country?" he said. "The party doesn't offer even a hint of socialism. There is more socialism in capitalist France than in their program."

A Levada Center poll conducted last week showed the Communists with the support of 18 percent of decided voters ahead of the Dec. 2 Duma vote, trailing only pro-Kremlin United Russia party, which had 55 percent.

The nationalist Liberal Democratic Party was running third at 11 percent, while A Just Russia was at 7 percent, the cutoff point for parties to make it into the Duma.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent. The percentage of undecided voters was not given.

Zyuganov said his party was attracting new supporters as voters became tired of unfulfilled promises from United Russia, "the party of the rich."

The congress opened with a concert featuring musicians in Russian folk costumes. Stalin and the October Revolution were common themes in the music, which was played against a backdrop of ubiquitous red flags.

"Let's vote for the KPRF, let's pick the KPRF for the next Duma," a tanned Zyuganov sang to the tune of the patriotic song "Proshchaniye Slavyanki" -- the Slavic woman's farewell.

The congress almost unanimously approved Zyuganov, Nobel laureate physicist Zhores Alfyorov and retired FSB colonel Nikolai Kharitonov, a deputy in the current Duma, to head up the party's national election list.

"I represent Moscow, Alfyorov -- St. Petersburg, and Kharitonov -- the Far East," Zyuganov said.

Zyuganov pointed out that neither Kharitonov, a former presidential candidate, nor Alfyorov was a party member.

One deputy leader, Ivan Melnikov, will head up the party list in Moscow, while another, Vladimir Kashin, will occupy the top spot for the Moscow region. Former cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya will head the party list for St. Petersburg.