Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny told about anti-corruption protests, the politicization of a new generation and foreign policy of Putin.
In late March, the best-known opposition leader Alexei Navalny urged to go to the anti-corruption protests across the country. Took to the streets tens of thousands of people. He was then detained for 15 days, for him it was not the first arrest. Monday he is at liberty again, a day later, in the office of his Fund for fighting corruption, located in Moscow’s business centre, it receives the correspondent of SPIEGEL. Bulk in a good mood, shows a fighting spirit. Soon he will go on regions, to garner support for his candidacy in the presidential elections of 2018. June 12 again needs to be demonstrations all over the country.
Spiegel: Mr. Bulk, You have just been released after his arrest. How are You, did you?
Alexei Navalny: we Need to represent the prison as a dirty hostel, where there was nothing to do but sleep and read. There were four of us in the chamber. The rest were ordinary people — one had a fight with his neighbor, another insulted a police officer. Not political prisoners, like me, they are specifically separated from each other, even in the walks.
— And yet you talked with other prisoners about politics?
— All day long. All listened, as I say, all we wanted to say. Even the police, with whom I sat after the detention in the bus, saw my film on premiere Dmitry Medvedev. They asked what all always ask: Why haven’t killed me yet, and why I’m not sitting behind bars.
— A lot of young people took part in rallies in late March to which you are called. Many people are surprised, this generation is considered apolitical.
— I was absolutely not surprised! First, I saw this tank…
— …This is like the Russian Facebook…
— … how young those who are going to go to rallies. Secondly, it was clear to me that political pressure on students causes a backlash. In the Bryansk students discouraged from participating in demonstrations, had a discussion with the school Director. In Russia since 90-ies was not the student movement, both in Eastern and Western Europe. We have such a movement in recent times was in tsarist times.
— Why these young people took to the streets?
— Poverty! This is an important factor. In the last five years reduced the standard of living.
— In Moscow it is imperceptible.
— In Tomsk, I asked young people, who are earning less than 20 thousand rubles. All of us, they said. And it is in the University town, that it was because of oil. Often say that I represent the more affluent segments of the population. Of course, one well educated and affluent, rather support me than Vladimir Putin. But it does not automatically mean that the rest of against me.
— What sets today’s demonstrators from those who in 2011 came out to protest against rigged results of the parliamentary elections?
— The main difference is geography. Now demonstrations are taking place where they never had before — Dagestan, Tatarstan and Bashkiria. The rest of the differences a little. Social media, the only thing we have left to communicate with each other and to Express our criticism, younger audience, that’s all.
— Your film about the alleged wealth of Medvedev’s YouTube video has collected 18 million views. Medvedev called the film “nonsense” and compared with “compote”, made up of different charges.
— What a pitiful statement. He waited a month, and all he came up with this “compote”! — Will the accusations against Medvedev for the consequences?
His political prospects are now limited. Probably, he first drank the whole week, so it seemed.
— Medvedev has not put forward charges. But now it wants to make billionaire Alisher Usmanov, who you blame the fact that he gave Dmitry Medvedev’s residence cost five billion rubles.
— He’s not exactly doing it on their own initiative. Probably someone asked him to blame me.
— Officially, the Kremlin behaves as if it is fighting corruption. Recently arrested the fifth Governor.
— Governors arrested for something I oppose. In addition, Putin is terrorizing its own elite. He fear their environment more than any protests. There are people, which is at least as critical as I am because they see at close range, it didn’t work. He wants it stopped.
— Putin will again become a candidate for election in 2018?
— Of course! Putin wants to be Tsar of a new Russian Empire, which he re-creates. I believe he is truly concerned about this idea.
— You will allow the elections?
— We want to force them to ensure that I have registered, as it was in 2013, the election for mayor of Moscow. Then I threatened to boycott. And then the Kremlin decided that it is better to prevent Navalny, because he will get a maximum of eight to nine percent.
Instead, You got 27 percent, almost reached the second round.
— As far as I know, that’s why the Kremlin is now leading those who are against my candidacy. They say — God knows what the results of the elections, we have once erred. In addition, they fear all that I can tell if I keep. For 17 years, elections in Russia are on the same model — no one criticizes Putin, no one is waging a real election campaign, all is quiet for all of two months. Kremlin blocks any alternative to Putin. He doesn’t want the candidate who travels around the country and speaks about the problems.
— Why is the opposition so long involved in this game?
— You were in the new Yeltsin center in Ekaterinburg? There at the exhibition hangs a Bulletin from the presidential elections of 1996 — and they have the same names as today. Communist party leader Zyuganov, the liberal Grigory Yavlinsky, right populist Zhirinovsky. Only Boris Yeltsin was replaced by Putin. None of the opposition members never took responsibility for the electoral defeat.
In your campaign You require the imposition of special fees for the oligarchs, the doubling of health spending, the minimum wage in the amount of 25 thousand rubles. Sounds like You moved to the left.
Let’s just say it sounds nothing like we used to hear from our liberal opposition. Expect to see a maniacal supporter of libertarianism, which believes the steep oligarchs are not interested in the problems of pensioners and believes that the invisible hand of the market will solve everything.
— The program cannot be considered very specific. How You want to Finance all this?
— A giant, senseless expenditure on the army and the police. We are in one of the first places in the world in expenditure on the police — but the number of murders we are also one of the first places. In addition, almost 30 percent of the budget is classified! No one knows what happens to money. On state contracts annually steal 1500 billion. The fight against corruption would free a huge amount.
— Six years ago You were active in nationalist circles. Many of your supporters don’t even support those with whom you were allies. It was a tactic or a belief?
— In the period from 2005 to 2011 I have done a lot to bring together the liberal and nationalist wing of the protest movement. So. And Yes, I’m still against the visa-free entry to Russia from Central Asian countries.
— Why the protests of 2011-2012 failed? What the opposition did wrong?
— There is no recipe of how to overthrow the regime in a couple of months. It is a historical process, which we cannot control. My best meeting was in 2010, it gathered 1500 people. Today a meeting less than 30 per thousand is considered a failure. Despite all the destruction that somehow managed to develop. But the main reason for the defeat — the violent suppression of protests. If you compare the mode 2012 to 2017, then the impression that we are talking about two different countries. We now live in a country with thousands of political prisoners. The country where every week there are new processes in which people are arrested because they clicked Like on something on the Internet.
— Some of the people with whom You together in may 2012 took part in the rally on Bolotnaya square, are still in the camps. Despite that You in March called for an unauthorized demonstration. You may be responsible for this?
I’m well aware that I am responsible for my brother who is in prison, arrested in may 2012. It’s not a pleasant thought. But my brother still was in the Newspapers on the front pages. If today will hold up any blogger in the province, then for him there will arrive journalists, lawyers or human rights activists, because right now a lot of these cases. If we want to stop something from happening, we must continue to fight for political change.
— Many ask the question why are You in such a repressive system are still at large and could even hold an expensive election campaign. Who finances it?
— We are all open. My Fund of struggle against corruption in the Russian standards of well-endowed, about 750 million Euro per year. But the individual contributions amount to an average of only 11,50 euros.
— Do You personally earn well, as you can see on your income statement. The Russian budget was to pay You in 2016 about 50 thousand euros awarded by the European court of human rights. Where the remaining 90 thousand euros?
Is the income from my law practice. I was deprived of the lawyer of the two tolerances, but a couple of the mandates I have left.
— Who uses the services of a known enemy of the Kremlin?
As a lawyer, I’m his client bring more disadvantages. But those who invited me doing this including the fact that they support me.
— You are afraid that You can use?
— Me nobody uses. But of course, enjoy what I do. If I attack Igor Sechin…
— the head of the state oil company “Rosneft” and the enemy Medvedev…
— … then it will help someone else. But if attacking Medvedev, will be a bunch of people who think it’s cool. Although I, unfortunately, don’t know, will I weaken it or strengthen. Perhaps Putin a month ago wanted to fire Medvedev, but he will be able to do after my film? In an opaque system can be used. I can not change.
— While You were in prison, Russia and the United States went to the confrontation over Syria. How do You assess Putin’s Syria policy?
— Russia must join the international coalition against the “Islamic state” (banned in Russia organization — approx.ed.). It is absurd that the war between Sunnis and Shiites we intervene on the side of the Shiites, although almost all Russian Muslims are Sunnis. To help Bashar al-Assad, Putin is creating for us a big problem.
— While at first it looked as though Putin found in Donald trump’s support in Syrian politics.
— After winning a trump, I explained in the video why trump will not be friendship. Contradictions between systems are too great. And Putin needs an enemy. He wants to be a leader of the anti-American, anti-European world. So he can’t be friends with heads of state, instead it must create scandals and resistance.
— In the person of Angela Merkel remains, at least one opponent. Without it there would be anti-Russian EU sanctions. As Russia needs to treat this?
— We need to implement the Minsk agreements. The main reason for the sanctions is that Russia has violated the ban unleashed a war in Europe. Crimea is a problem, but the most painful part of the sanctions connected with the war in the Donbass. As soon as Russia will take real steps to stop shooting, this part of the sanctions will be lifted.
In the course of speeches You say my foreign policy is that, finally, the roads were better and wages higher. Sounds like you are deviating from the topic.
— I do not deviate. But I believe, and in this I differ from Putin, that Russia should not isolate itself. Everything that happens in our country, justifies Syria or Ukraine. But if a private residents only earn $ 300, it turns into nothing along with foreign power. Start to colonize their own country. When I visit my brother in prison, passing through the most densely populated part of European Russia — and for miles not seeing a single person. It would be a great opportunity to use force.
— You are the best-known representative of the opposition, your younger colleagues look at You. You sometimes drunk with this role?
— I encourage all of my employees to nominate. But in this system it was extremely difficult to become well-known opposition politician. I have no more rivals that I would have to debate. At the same time I need competition. And people I soon get boring. He says Bulk, but Bulk, we want to see someone new.
— Mr. Navalny, thank you for the interview.