Anti-Putin MP tipped to be next opposition leader is accused of ELK poaching after being ‘caught with dead animal in the back of his car’ – as Communist Party accuse Kremlin of framing him
A Russian Communist Party MP and the latest Putin oppositional hopeful was cornered by rangers in a forest who allegedly found the carcass of an elk in his car.
Valery Rashkin, 66, was found in the woods outside the city Saratov in what the Communists have suggested was a Kremlin set-up.
Rangers headed to the area on Thursday evening to respond to reports of a shooting but found Mr Rashkin with a dead elk in his car, hunting authorities told Russian media.
Valery Rashkin, 66, said he was going to report the carcass and was on a walk while visiting the countryside
They also reported that an axe and two knives with traces of blood were found in the car, The Telegraph reported.
A clip released by news site Mash shows Mr Rashkin being questioned about the incident and being asked to get out of the car and confirm his identity.
He appears dazed and speaks little. When he is asked whether he has had anything to drink, he initially replies hesitantly but then answers ‘no’.
Mr Rashkin has denied reports that he was allegedly drunk and said he refused a breathalyser test because it may have been rigged
Mr Rashkin’s interrogators, who appear to be rangers, then ask him why he was travelling with the elk carcass in the back of his car as this is illegal and the MP said he was going to report it.
He later said he was visiting some friends in the countryside and saw a car driving away while on a walk through the woods.
Mr Rashkin later told the TV channel RTVi: ‘I went to this place and found an elk. An almost cut elk.
Russian Comminist Party Leader Gennady Zyuganov (centre) with Valery Rashkin (right). State-media agency Tass reported the story without naming Mr Rashkin and said he was drunk and refused to take a breathalyser test
‘I went back to the guys, stirred up one friend (they had a good tea there), invited them to take an elk and take it to the police.’
He added that his visit was spurred by the urge to go to places where he felt good and was familiar with in the midst of the pandemic.
State-media agency Tass reported the story without naming Mr Rashkin and said he was drunk and refused to take a breathalyser test.
The politician denied the allegation and said he didn’t take the test because he was worried the results may be rigged.
The Communist Party said on Friday that the story, first reported by pro-Kremlin channels on Telegram, was set up like a smear campaign against Mr Rashkin because he’s a potential anti-Putin opposition leader
He told RTVi: ‘I wasn’t drunk, but I didn’t get a medical examination.
‘This is the Saratov region. Here it is elementary to falsify the results, so I did not get involved with them.’
He added that he would take the incident to court.
The Communist Party said the incident appears like a Kremlin set up to frame the MP since Mr Rashkin is seen as a serious candidate for an opposition leader to rival Putin.
The 66-year-old MP is popular with young progressives and is openly a supporter of jailed Alexei Navalny.
The Communist Party said on Friday that the story, first reported by pro-Kremlin channels on Telegram, was set up like a smear campaign against Mr Rashkin.