Campaign diary

Putin ramps up fright factor


Pig’s head attached to a businessman’s door in Irkutsk. Photo from Facebook page of Leonid Volkov.

by Sarah Hurst

Kremlin retribution against Alexei Navalny’s top campaigners and supporters is intensifying. This morning the head of Navalny’s Moscow headquarters, Nikolai Lyaskin, was greeted at home by police blocking his car and demanding that he accompany them to the station. He did so and was held for a few hours with no explanation, then released with an order to return on November 9.

Meanwhile, Navalny himself wrote a blog post about the coordinator of his Kemerovo campaign headquarters, Ksenia Pakhomova. “She is a brave woman,” he said. “You know what the region has turned into under the government of [Governor Aman] Tuleyev, who has been sitting there for 27 years already. A total disaster. Terrible corruption. The kind of falsification of elections that the Caucasus would envy.”

In an attempt to slow down Pakhomova’s efforts, her boyfriend Alexander Stepantsov has been expelled from Kuzbass State Technical University, where he was doing a master’s degree and was reportedly an excellent student, and her mother has been fired from her job as director of an arts school. “How can we react to the vampires who do this?” Navalny asked. “You can’t call them people. We have to do whatever is in our power to fight them – that’s the task of every normal person.”

Pig’s head with a pentagram

In an even more sinister development, someone attached a pig’s head with a pentagram carved into its forehead to the door of the office of a businessman in Irkutsk who had offered a venue for a Navalny rally on November 4. Navalny held a rally on private property in Tambov on Sunday and has asked other businesspeople around the country to invite him to hold rallies so that he can avoid having to ask permission from local governments, which invariably refuse or create obstacles such as offering a remote location early in the morning.

Navalny’s campaign chief Leonid Volkov, who recently came out of prison himself after serving a 20-day sentence, posted a picture of the pig’s head on Facebook and wrote that the Irkutsk businessman had already received threats from gangsters associated with the city’s mayor, Dmitri Berdnikov, who wanted to take his shopping centre from him. Berdnikov in turn is linked to the alleged criminal activities of Russia’s Prosecutor-General Yuri Chaika, Volkov added.

Authorities in Kazan, Tatarstan have rejected 30 applications from Navalny’s headquarters there for a rally. Applications were made for a rally on either November 10, 11 or 12 at 10 possible venues in the city. Local government official Yevgeny Varakin has said that the applications do not comply with federal law on holding rallies.

Business as usual for Putin

While using so many different tactics of intimidation against Navalny and his team, Vladimir Putin still has not officially announced that he will be running for president again in March. Yesterday while the news about the indictments of Paul Manafort and other former associates of Donald Trump was breaking, Putin hosted a meeting of his “human rights council” and responded to a question about why Navalny’s rallies have been constantly disrupted. As usual Putin didn’t speak Navalny’s name, but said that some people are  organising events just to draw attention to themselves.

In the Ksenia Sobchak camp things are not going well, with a large number of her team resigning because they say there is no money for the campaign and and no real planning. At the same time, another female TV presenter, Yekaterina Gordon, announced that she would run for president. But Putin still has only one serious opponent, and the enormous efforts being made to stop him demonstrate that Putin knows it.

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