On December 25, 2017, the Central Electoral Commission refused to register the nomination of Navalny as a candidate for the President of Russia. But, in fact, Navalny does challenge Vladimir Putin: “Putin is horribly afraid — he sees a threat in competing with me,” Alexei Navalny said in a video.
The meeting with the Commission was broadcast on the YouTube channel “Navalny live.” While addressing the Commission, Navalny said:
You are taking this decision not against me, but against those 16 thousand people who yesterday put me forward. Against those millions who would vote for me.
Once in your lifetime, after all, you could accomplish even not a feat, but simply follow the law. You spend your life on lies, you can do the right thing once in your life. Do it.
Immediately after the Commission’s decision Navalny appeared on the YouTube channel with an appeal to boycott the coming elections of Russian President. Later he tweeted that he and his supporters would start preparing a street protest. “It should really be an all-Russian one,” he said.
The next day Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded with a threat to Navalny by saying that calls for a boycott of the presidential elections “are subject to very scrupulous study for compliance or inconsistency with our legislation.”
On the same day, December 26, Maja Kocijancic, Press Secretary of the European External Relations Service, made the following statement:
The Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation decision to prevent the opposition politician Aleksey Navalny from participating in the presidential election of 2018 because of his disputed conviction raises serious doubts about the existence of political pluralism in Russia and the democratic nature of the elections that will take place next year.
Earlier, the European Human Rights Court concluded that Mr. Navalny, who was found guilty of embezzlement, did not have an opportunity to exercise his right to a fair trial within the framework of the criminal proceedings held in 2013 on this charge.
Despite Peskov’s warning, on December 27, 2017, Navalny appealed to his supporters:
To go to the polls now means to solve Putin’s problems, to help him turn a reassignment into a kind of election. There is not the slightest point in this…
We do not want to wait for another six years. We want competitive elections right now.
We are submitting the preliminary applications for marches and rallies on January 28 in a month in advance. So that no official could say to us afterwards, “Oh, the square is occupied with a belly dance competition.”
On December 28, YouTube’s video service apologized for blocking Alexey Navalny’s video (don’t forget to click the button “Add translation”!) calling for people to participate in the All-Russian action on January 28 in support of the “voters’ strike.” According to Navalny, the situation proves that within YouTube “there is a manual mukhlezh [i.e., manipulation – V. B.] of clips with political content.” The formal reason for removing the clip from the service was the presence of “illegal hashtags.”
The video became unavailable on Wednesday evening and was unlocked around noon on Thursday. “But in a sense, the Kremlin’s plan succeeded, the video flew out of trend, etc. We will not count up to a million of informed people,” Navalny said.
As the lawyer of FBK Ivan Zhdanov informed on Twitter, the same day Navalny appealed to the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation regarding the decision of the Central Election Commission (CEC) to refuse registration of the candidacy. The lawsuit was scheduled for December 30 at 11:00 (Moscow time). Zhdanov added: “We do not forget that the courts are just as controlled as the CEC, the main thing now is a strike of the voters. Print the flyer [of Navalny’s staff].”
On December 30, 2017 the Russian Supreme Court (judge Nikolay Romanenkov) confirmed the decision to refuse to allow Navaly to run.
On January 3, 2018, Ivan Zhdanov, Navalny’s lawyer informed the press: “The decision [of the Supreme Court] was challenged by the appeal to the Appellation Court of the Supreme Court of Russia. As for the practice of considering cases of this category, a meeting on our complaint may take place before the [New Year] holidays are over.”
But on January 6, the Appellation Court confirmed the Supreme Court’s refusal. After the court session, the lawyer Zhdanov said that Navalny would appeal to the Presidium of the Supreme Court and to the Constitutional Court.
The next day Navalny, who came to St. Petersburg, tweeted that for the second day he was being followed by open surveillance and the surveillance was conducted by the same persons. He joked: “We, Yulia [wife – V.B.] and I already are greeting them. It’s unacceptable, 1. Violation of the labor legislation – people should be replaced. 2. Who does this? In the Future Beautiful Russia [i.e., Navalny’s Russia – V. B.], the surveillance of people will be conducted according to all the rules.”
In answer to the criticism of the U.S. State Department and the European Union regarding the refusal to register Navalny as a candidate for elections, on January 11, 2018 Russian President Putin said to the Russian press:
The character you mentioned [Putin never mentions Navalny by name – V. B.], he’s not the only one who was not allowed, but for some reason, the others are not mentioned. This, apparently, speaks about the preferences of the US administration and the leadership of other countries, says about whom they would like to promote into the political sphere of Russia, whom they would like to see in the country’s leadership. Apparently, these are the people they make bet on and rely on. In this sense, they failed, it would be better if they were silent.
Presidential elections in Russia are scheduled for March 18, 2018.
Two days before the election, on March 16, 2018, a conference, “PutinCon,” will be held in New York. Such prominent persons as Garry Kasparov, Preet Bharara, Vladimir Kara-Murza and William Browder will be among 30 speakers.
On January 16, 2018, Navalny appealed to the Russian Constitutional Court, demanding to recognize unconstitutional the part of the law on basic guarantees of electoral rights of citizens, which prohibits convicted persons in cases of grave and especially grave crimes to be nominated for elections until their conviction is over. With reference to this part, the CEC justified its refusal despite of the verdict of the European Court on Human Rights regarding Navalny. On January 18, the Constitutional Court refused to consider Navalny’s appeal.
On January 18, the Moscow mayor’s office suggested that Navalny transfer the announced action on January 28 from the central Tverskaya Street to the distant north-western region of Shchukino. The politician refused.
Meanwhile, on January 17, the Gagarinsky Regional Court of Moscow did not accept a counterclaim by Navalny’s “Fifth Time of the Year” Fund to the Ministry of Justice. The Fund is Navalny’s main legal entity that supports the work of Navalny’s headquarters, concluding contracts with the staff members, with rented premises, for printing the election campaign materials, and so forth. On January 15, the Ministry of Justice demanded the liquidation of the Fund.
On January 22, 2018 Irina Afanasyeva, judge of the Meshchansky District Court of Moscow Irina Afanasyeva ruled in favor of the administrative claim of the Ministry of Justice on the liquidation of the “Fifth Time of the Year” Fund. The judge ignored the arguments by Navalny’s Fund lawyers Ivan Zhdanov and Vyacheslav Gimadi. The decision comes into force in 30 days. However, the Alfa Bank has already blocked the Fund’s account of about 1.46 million rubles.
Navalny commented that “usually, when the Ministry of Justice does not like an NGO, it’s a long story of eliminating it, first, they demand to correct violations, then make warnings, then suspensions follow, and so on. Now they liquidated immediately. This is illegal.”
Navalny added that it appeared that about a dozen organizations were involved in the operation to investigate Navalny’s regional network: along with the Justice Ministry and the Prosecutor’s Office, it was the FSB, the Interior Ministry, the Central Election Commission, Rosfinmonitoring, Roskomnadzor, the Federal Tax Service, and also the Department of National Policy and the Public Relations Committee of the Moscow City Hall.
In the meantime, prison authorities intensified pressure on Alexei Navalny’s brother Oleg, who was sentenced in 2014 to a 3.5-years imprisonment. At the same trial Alexei received a 3.5-year suspended sentence and a fine of 500 thousand rubles. The brothers were found guilty of fraud for 26.7 million rubles. In 2017, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) recognized the trial to have been unfair and violating two articles of the European Human Rights Convention, and ordered Russian authorities to pay the brothers a compensation of 76.000 euros.
Oleg Navalny is imprisoned in the Corrective Colony 5 (IK-5) in the Orlov Region. On January 26, 2018 he put a complaint on his Facebook addressed to the Russian Investigative Committee, FSB, FSIN (Federal Penitentiary Service), and Public Supervisory Commission (ONK). Oleg reported about the newest actions of the first deputy head of the regional FSIN, Vasily Mikhailenko, against him.
According to Navalny, Mikhailenko gave the IK-5 employees illegal instructions. In particular, he ordered to nail to the floor a stool and a bedside table in opposite corners of the cell and to pour concrete over the electric outlet. Due to the lack of a working outlet, Navalny cannot shave and boil water in the cell. A table was removed from Navalny’s cell, and he was allowed to have only two books in the cell, the others were taken away.
Almost all the time Navalny is kept in a locked cell. The IK-5 administration threatened that he would not be allowed to meet his relatives according to the schedule, but would be placed in the colony’s prison, ShIZO, instead.
On Sunday, January 28, there were protests in 118 cities of Russia, from the Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad to the city of Yuzno-Sakhalinsk in the Far East, within the framework of the strike of voters announced by Alexei Navalny against uncompetitive elections. In Moscow, the events around the “Strike of voters” began to unfold in the morning, when the police came to Navalny’s office of the Anti-Corruption Fund. Law enforcement authorities planning to turn off the Internet broadcast.
The police turned off the electricity in the office and opened the door to the studio with an electrical saw. But the broadcast continued even after the detention of several employees of the headquarters, as well as the presenter, who, according to the police, had “a bomb installed in his phone”.
Navalny’s headquarters continued to cover the protests, explaining that the autonomous power supply will last for another 10 hours, and the main studio, from which the direct broadcasts were conducted, was in the unidentified location. The police did not find it.
Navalny himself was detained in the center of Moscow on the Tverskaya Street at the beginning of the event. Later, in the evening, he was released.
The main slogans of protesters were the following: “Putin, Go Away!”, “Russia Without Putin!”, “Tsar, Out!”, “The Fourth Time in Prison!”, “Putin Is a Thief!”, “We Are the Power Here!”, “Russia Will Be Free!”, “Putin is the Enemy of Russia!”, “Russia!”, “Strike!”, “Boycott!,” “We Will Not Go Away!”, “This Is Our Country!”, “We Won’t Be Frightened!” In total, as of 18:30 of Moscow time 257 people were detained by the police, some of the protesters were terribly beaten. In Moscow, 16 protesters were detained, mostly members of Navalny’s headquarters.