Campaign diary

Navalny on the march

Navalny Novokuznetsk

Alexei Navalny at his rally in Novokuznetsk. Photo by Evgeny Feldman.

by Sarah Hurst

Alexei Navalny held three more rallies this weekend, in Barnaul, Novokuznetsk and Kaliningrad. Last time Navalny was in Barnaul, in March to open his campaign headquarters there, he was sprayed in the face with green chemicals while he was walking down the street. He wasn’t seriously injured, but the following month he was attacked with green chemicals again in Moscow, and had to go to Spain for eye surgery.

Navalny’s visit to Barnaul on Friday went more peacefully, and he spoke to a large crowd who turned out despite the cold. The average salary in Barnaul is about $237 a month, and less in the surrounding region, Navalny said on his blog. “I read out from the stage the statement of Governor [Alexander] Karlin about how happy he is that Putin is going for another term, as Altai is developing wonderfully under Putin. Everyone laughed,” Navalny said.

Festival fail

In Novokuznetsk authorities organised a festival called “Let’s Greet Winter Boldly!” as a distraction from Navalny’s rally. They claimed on their website that 15,000 people attended, but photographs showed only a few hundred. Navalny’s rally looked considerably larger. “The most important thing that we have to remember about Russian politics, amigos, is that the ‘cast-iron Putin 86 percent’ has the same nature as those 15,000 participants in the mayor of Novokuznetsk’s rally,” Navalny wrote. “Until we ourselves recognise that and stop being depressed, reading the information in the meaningless polls, the swindlers will sit in the Kremlin,” he concluded.

Today Navalny held an extremely lively rally in Kaliningrad, Russia’s western exclave where it has deployed missiles to threaten the Baltics and the rest of Europe. At the last minute the owner of the property where Navalny was due to speak changed his mind about hosting the rally, possibly due to police pressure. Navalny and his supporters walked through the centre of the city to the “Hyde Park” speakers’ area, and Navalny spoke to very impressive crowd. Not bad for someone who isn’t even on the ballot on March 18.

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