by Sarah Hurst
A judge in Tyumen has sentenced a volunteer at Alexei Navalny’s local campaign headquarters, Petr Kharitonov, to seven days in prison for speaking at the protest against Vladimir Putin’s rigged re-election on January 28. He was charged with “minor hooliganism”. Kharitonov held a sign at the protest that said “Return the election, a—holes!!!”
According to the Tyumen campaign team on VKontakte, Kharitonov said in his speech, “Among us there are people who throughout the whole of 2017 have detained our volunteers and fabricated cases against us. And now, looking at this small sign, they’re smiling! When I was sitting in jail on a fabricated charge, it was they who came to me and bullied me, saying, ‘We’ll put you in prison! We’ll plant drugs and you’ll go to prison!’ I want to say this to all of them: we’re not afraid of you!”
Meanwhile, Navalny himself said that he had been questioned by detectives in connection with his arrest at the protest in Moscow on January 28. A policeman has written a statement saying that while arresting Navalny the opposition leader kicked him and caused him “sharp pain”. Last year several people who participated in protests led by Navalny were sentenced to up to two or more years in prison for similar alleged offences. It remains to be seen how far the police will take Navalny’s case, but they are clearly delivering a strong warning.
Today SERB pro-Putin activists led by Gosha Tarasevich (real name Igor Beketov) invaded Navalny’s campaign headquarters in Moscow and disrupted the work of volunteers who are calling for a boycott of the election on March 18. It was SERB members who threw green chemicals in Navalny’s face in April last year, requiring him to have eye surgery in Spain. No one has been arrested for the assault.
Candidates travel abroad, threaten with nukes, praise Stalin
Russia’s Central Electoral Commission has said that there will probably be eight candidates on the ballot. Among them are TV personality Kseniya Sobchak, who is currently in Washington, D.C. giving talks, and business ombudsman Boris Titov, who has just returned from a visit to London, where he brought back a list of exiled Russian businessmen who are under investigation in Russia. Titov claims that the businessmen want to return to Russia, but one of them, Alexei Shmatko, who is claiming asylum in the UK, told Novaya Gazeta that this is untrue and that they just want the investigations to cease. Shmatko spent time in prison in Penza Oblast.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, one of Putin’s perpetual fake opponents, recently said on Vladimir Soloviev’s prime-time Russian TV talk show that he would like to drop a small nuclear bomb on the residence of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Another one, Grigory Yavlinsky, has run an almost invisible campaign. The Communist Party’s candidate, Pavel Grudinin, gave an interview in which he called Stalin Russia’s best leader of the past 100 years and touted his economic achievements while brushing off questions about the Gulag system and slave labour.
All this takes place against the background of a mass slaughter by Russia and the Syrian government against civilians which appears to have been provoked by the shooting down of a Russian Su-25 on February 3 and the death of its pilot. The UN has said that the suffering in Syria is worse than ever before. Putin claimed victory too soon, and his victory on March 18 will be just as hollow.
Categories: Campaign diary