DPS officer stops me at 50 meters from the election headquarters of Alexei Navalny in downtown Moscow. “Show, please, documents, exit the vehicle and open the trunk.” After checking I’m allowed to go on, follow me stop another car, then the next.
“What are they looking for? Weapons, bomb? Afraid of provocations and terrorists?” — I ask the young man on whose breast pinned the icon of “20!8”, symbolizing the campaign Bulk. “What kind of terrorists! They are looking for promotional materials to take away,” — he answers, and the crowd dissolved. In front of the headquarters of the crowd of several dozen people, activists and volunteers from the team opposition, journalists and police officers.
From Kaliningrad to Vladivostok
On the morning of 6 July, the building stormed by the security forces and attacked a volunteer who was on night duty at headquarters. Before that someone cut the locks, so to close the office was only possible from the inside. What happened to the volunteer Alexander Turovsky, long remained unknown. 10 hours later it turned out that he was taken to court, and from there to the hospital with a concussion. The media reported that against him prosecuted, but in the end the punishment limited to a fine of 500 rubles. By the standards of the opposition, a penalty equivalent to justification.
“The work of the staff is blocked, even though we have a lease. We don’t know on what legal basis did the law enforcement officers. Now here, as they say, the lawyer of the owner of the premises, which was surrounded by policemen. In what other state one of the parties to a civil dispute police guards?” — reflects the team member Bulk Vitaly Strokanov. “It’s an absolute injustice,” adds the head of staff Leonid Volkov.
The atmosphere thickens. The police appeared in the headquarters, located in Vologda, Orel, and Novosibirsk. In Moscow, the Investigative Committee came to the warehouse, where the team kept Navalny campaign materials. The pretext was an anonymous message that they may contain calls to extremism.
“We have, or not say, stole 205 thousand pieces of Newspapers and leaflets. This is the remains of a five million circulation, which we mostly sent to the province. Even took the stickers, badges, bracelets. We apparently learn that the number “2” is pushing to pedophilia, “0” insulting religious feelings and an exclamation mark, not even going to say… Wait for examination” — ironically the wolves.
The team of opposition moved to the nearest doorway with a laptop on her lap: managed to accumulate a job. The next day, July 7, at the freedom had to leave Alexei Navalny. He received 30 days of administrative arrest for organizing an illegal demonstration on 12 June. The staff was not going to wait for their leader: his return decided to celebrate a great campaign “volunteer”.
Bulk really was released. At the place where he was serving his arrest, it was waited by journalists, supporters and opponents, so that his advance was moved to the center of Moscow. He immediately went to the office to make a new entry in the video blog, in which he thanked them for their support and encouraged further work.
“For Alexei, it was a difficult period. Had to work, he needed help. Not only is he the face of the movement and the candidate, but also a person who is engaged in serious organizational and ideological work, coordinating the activities of the center,” — says Leonid Volkov.
Team Navalny reported that it opened more than 60 staffs in the area from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok and engaged more than 100 thousand volunteers.
In the “propaganda” Saturday, July 8, Vladislav Mazur looked scared. Vladislav 16 years old, he lives in Izmailovo in the East of Moscow. That day he was handing out leaflets at the metro station. Campaign materials he was little, but it can be seen from a distance by a large helium-filled balloon with the words “Bulk 20!8”.
Vlad, as it was called the mate, coming up a little later, decided to volunteer in protest against the political course of Vladimir Putin. A young man dreams that appeared in Russia finally healthy and modern economy that does not depend on oil and gas.
“I don’t like Russian foreign policy. Why do we need Syria and Ukraine, the policy of sanctions? It’s just hurting us, the focus should be on the development of society. We ourselves are poor, but to help others abroad. Putin tries to score points with the help of geopolitics”, — says Vladislav. He plans to go to University and become a programmer, hoping to earn some money by freelancing.
Muscovites react to the Bulk of volunteers in different ways. Take some leaflets and sympathetic look on, as they say in Russia, “young man,” the other indifferently pass by. “No, with the aggression I faced. Sometimes just say I work for the Americans, asking how much I get paid… But because I’m a volunteer,” explains Vlad.
A teenager at the rally
Navalny has attracted Vladislav Mazur (my grandfather who was Polish roots) in their work, anti-corruption investigations in the blog and program on creation in Russia of a democratic state without corruption, shadow economy and capitalism with the invisible hand of the Kremlin oligarchs.
“I saw him on TV when I was ten, in a report on the dispersal of some demonstrations. I felt sorry for these people. Then I for some time forgot about it until 2015 did not go to the rally of supporters of Navalny,” says Vlad, who at the time of his “political initiation” was 14 years old.
On TV he saw the protests of the turn of 2011 and 2012, the reason was the return of Putin to the Kremlin and falsified, according to observers, elections to the State Duma in 2011. the Authorities were able to suppress the protests, introducing, in particular, the draconian laws on the organization of events (although the Constitution permits Russians to hold peaceful meetings).
Participants in anti-Putin demonstrations may 2012 received prison terms. Were prosecuted as the leaders of the opposition. In 2013 in Kirov sentenced Navalny to five years imprisonment for alleged financial fraud in a local company “Kirovles”. In another case of opposition leader accused of embezzlement of the company Yves Rocher and sentenced to 3.5 years probation, his brother Oleg was jailed.
“That wave was already asleep. Public figures, famous musicians, influential people withdrew from politics. Now we are witnessing the personalization of the protests. It is the merit of Navalny, who became the leader of the opposition,” said political analyst Alexei Makarkin.
“Navalny attracted to his charisma. It is the only opposition candidate who talks to people. Other opposition leaders have failed to initiate dialogue, they focused on the middle class, educated people. Bulk populist, but that’s okay. Donald trump won in the US thanks to populism,” explains Vladislav Mazur.
I was advised to stay at home
In early March of this year, “Fund of struggle against corruption” posted on YouTubie 50-minute documentary investigation on owned by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev properties and vineyards in Russia and Italy. The video has gained 24 million views. Authoritative magazine Time has included Navalny in the list of most influential Internet people in the world.
Corruption in government circles and the lack of reaction from the Kremlin bowed to the “king of the Internet” to convene, on 26 March a peaceful demonstration. Because the event was not coordinated, participated mainly young people who can afford to take the risk. In the course of the rally detained hundreds of people. At the rally, which was held near the Kremlin walls, was Vlad. He was detained by riot police and taken to the police station.
“Then I started having problems in school. Especially hard on me pressed the head teacher, who said that I was not put on the account in police only because of my good grades,” — says Vladislav. Such measures are for the so-called difficult teenagers, school bullies, truants and underachievers. “Classmates have asked why I do, and was advised to stay home. But I don’t want. So I take part in campaign actions,” adds Vlad.
He went to another meeting — June 12, Russia Day. Then he was able without incident to return home. He was lucky: riot police detained about thousands of protesters, among whom were minors.
The atmosphere is conducive, but…
After two protests, the main driving force of which were youth, Russian authorities and experts interested in this age group, and the Internet. In the Duma even met with bloggers.
“The youth of today are the people of the global world, even if foreign travel is available only to a few. First, they don’t watch TV, and secondly, understand that when teachers call the Bulk of the enemy of the people is “fake”. Young people want to make a career, to develop. Students see that all the seats are occupied, the work can be obtained only by an acquaintance”, — says Alexei Makarkin. He believes the mood of the youth fit into the wider context: economic stagnation, the imposition of the theme of “the collapse of Ukraine” and the image of Russia as a besieged fortress, which is designed to divert attention from domestic problems.
Sociologists, however, destroy the hopes of the opposition that the youth protest to overthrow Putin. According to the survey “Levada-center”, only one in ten young Russian is ready to go to rallies. Putin supports 89% of young people, and the hero of the anti-corruption investigation of Dmitry Medvedev — 67%.
“Every fourth representative of the youth are ready to vote for Navalny, but that doesn’t mean they actually will. The young are more difficult to manage because they don’t watch TV. At the same time we observe growing dissatisfaction with the standard of living in other social groups. The level of trust in the government decreases. The atmosphere is conducive to growing protests, however, saying that millions of people will soon take to the streets, and the regime collapses, it would be an exaggeration” — said the expert of “Levada-center” Denis Volkov.
Interpretation of the law
Navalny returned to “the big game” at the end of 2016, saying that he intends to participate in the upcoming presidential election. Political analysts have linked this step with the process in the case of “Kirovles” as the Supreme court, quashed the opposition sentence. The statement about participation in the presidential race was intended to persuade the judges not to sentence him again. However, this did not happen: in may 2017 Kirov court dismissed the appeal policy.
“Statement on participation in elections was the right thing: Navalny was accepted as a candidate, although it still knows only every second Russian” — draws the attention of Denis Volkov. According to the spring polls, the Bulk of the theoretically willing to vote every fourth adult citizen of Russia, but if elections were held next Sunday would have done, only 2% of respondents.
Commentators say that Navalny is trying by any means to inflate the hype around their non-admission to elections. “He consciously took this risk and aggravation of the political situation, it stands for the youth, he feels the mood,” says Makarkin.
The Central election Commission at the end of June, said that after the second sentence Navalny has lost his passive electoral right. “From the point of view of the Constitution and the law, including moral, Navalny may take part in the elections and will do so. Is the solution to all those people who support him”, — said the head of staff Leonid Volkov.
The CEC responded as the opening of campaign headquarters, calling the campaigning actions that go beyond the official campaign, which will begin in December. “Agitation is not against the law. We tell people that Navalny wants to participate in the elections. Under the Constitution a citizen who is not in custody, has a passive electoral right, and we have the right to peacefully take to the streets and Express their opinion,” says Vitaly Strokanov.
“Navalny understood that you will not be able to participate in the elections, as the cancellation of sentences and his political rehabilitation would be a symbol of the weakness of the authorities,” says Makarkin. The political scientist believes that the blogger uses the election campaign, to mobilize supporters and to present his political and economic program. “To allow Navalny to elections is too big a risk for the authorities. It is not possible to control themselves from the Kremlin and spiral out of control. If a candidate appears on TV, he will get a chance to become really recognizable,” says sociologist Denis Volkov.
Experts believe that the Russian authorities do not give his enemy the podium. The Russians may decide that he really is telling the truth, and unrest the Kremlin is not needed. Bulk only began to struggle for power, and in 2018 it will not end. “After Putin’s reelection, the crisis will deepen. Funds in the Reserve Fund runs out the government will have to undertake painful reforms to raise the retirement age. Navalny, along with his staff and the volunteers are just that and waiting. And while the authorities will try to complicate his life, so that the sentence will remain in power,” Makarkin predicts.
Navalny does not look far into the future. His staff counts losses from operations, which the police conducted July 6-9, and appreciate their strength. In the “cleanup campaign” involved more than 1,7 thousand volunteers in 126 cities of Russia. Police arrested 217 persons (152 of them in Moscow) for violation of the procedure of holding public events, although each item campaigning takes only a few people. The symbol for the detention was the red balloon, which the volunteers took with them into the police buses.
Sunday July 9, police arrested and Vladislav Mazur. He went to the police station and escaped penalty only because he was under 18 years of age.
My call was answered by his mother. She asked me who I am and why I’m calling, and then handed the phone to his son. “The situation is unimportant. I was summoned to the Commission on Affairs of minors and are going to put on record, as was threatened after the rally on March 26. My parents support me… I have to go…” — interrupted the conversation Vladislav.
Michal Kulakovsky — the correspondent of TV channel Polsat News in Moscow