By Sarah Hurst
Alexei Navalny held three more election rallies this weekend, in Ivanovo, Kursk and Tambov. The Kremlin apparently wants to view some rallies to see how they go while at the same time maintaining pressure on Navalny himself and anyone who campaigns for him. Today several prominent Navalny supporters were detained in Moscow for several hours while giving out leaflets, including the head of Navalny’s Moscow headquarters, Nikolai Lyaskin.
The crowds at Navalny’s rallies were impressive, with hundreds of people in each city braving snow and rain and finding their way to the remote locations designated by local authorities for the events. As has become a tradition, Navalny invited opponents onto the stage with him in Kursk and Tambov. In Kursk he managed to convince a United Russia supporter that Putin’s party is completely corrupt. In Tambov two different United Russia supporters in turn accused Navalny of being funded by the United States and of being a Kremlin project. Navalny said this just proved that Putin has persuaded people that politics can’t be honest. He promised to bring back honest politics, including observers at polling stations.
“Who is our main enemy?” Navalny asked the crowd in Tambov this evening. “Putin!” they shouted. “Our main enemy is lack of belief in ourselves,” Navalny corrected them. However, he does not avoid speaking out against Putin directly (unlike Ksenia Sobchak): during his weekly “Navalny at 20:18” YouTube broadcast on Thursday he said that Putin is his main opponent and the most corrupt person in Russia. He added that he would like to hold rallies in cities of over a million people such as Rostov-on-Don and Krasnodar, but authorities have not given permission and so he might have to hold unauthorised rallies there.
Government encourages violence
During the broadcast Navalny also talked about the attack on Ekho Moskvy journalist Tania Felgengauer last week, in which Boris Grits from Israel walked into the radio station, sprayed some kind of gas at a security guard and slashed Felgengauer’s throat, saying that she had been harassing him telepathically. Navalny said that he doubted that Grits acted of his own accord, but even if he did, the Kremlin has enabled “psychos” by creating an atmosphere of impunity for them – as when pro-Putin activist Alexander Petrunko threw green chemicals in his face and wasn’t prosecuted for it.
Last week also the tragic news emerged that Moscow opposition activist Alexei Stroganov, aged 50, had died after being struck with an iron bar just before municipal elections on September 10 and spending several weeks in a coma. Stroganov was a member of the Solidarity opposition group and was also on his local electoral commission. No one has been arrested in connection with the attack. Nikolai Lyaskin was also hit on the heads with an iron bar recently, and police accused him of staging the attack himself. Activist Ivan Skripnichenko, who was one of the people who regularly patrolled the people’s memorial on the bridge where Boris Nemtsov was murdered, died in August as a result of being punched in the face. He was 37 years old. No one has been arrested in that case either.
Categories: Campaign diary