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January 26, 2017 No.
6756

Echo Of Moscow Interviews Russia's Anti-Corruption Crusader Navalny Following His Announcement That He Will Run For President In 2018

In December 2016, Russian opposition activist and anti-corruption crusader Alexey Navalny announced that he intended to run for president of Russia in the 2018 presidential election. During an interview with Russian journalist and co-owner of the independent Echo of Moscow radio station, Alexey Venediktov, Navalny confirmed his intention to run. In 2013, Navalny ran in Moscow's mayoral elections and finished second. Prior to the elections, Navalny was found guilty of embezzling timber from a state-owned company, when he served as an unpaid consultant to the governor of Russia's Kirov region. He was originally sentenced to five years in prison, but the sentence was later suspended. The Russian Supreme Court overturned the decision in November 2016 and thus cleared the way for Navalny to present his presidential bid. The court's presidium began a reexamination of Navalny's case following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that Navalny's right to a fair trial had been violated. A retrial of the case is currently pending.[1]

Below are excerpts from Navalny's interview with the Echo of Moscow radio station:[2]

 

Description: Image may contain: 1 person
Alexey Navalny (Source: Facebook.com/navalny)

 

Navalny: 'Our First Concern Is Not How Many Votes We Will Get, But How Difficult It Is To Get On The Ballot'

Venediktov: "Alexei Anatolievich, is this by any chance a false start? Or a mere political gesture? One year before the campaign even starts, you submit your candidacy."

Navalny: "One year and three months till the elections, and we are already on a tight timeframe. Therefore this is an announcement, not a false start, that we actually making tardily, as we confront huge tasks, not only political, but organizational as well. To get registered, we need to collect 300 thousand signatures. No one doubts that we need to do that honestly, even super honestly. There is a lot of work that has to be done in 40 regions."

Venediktov: "I will interrupt you. That is to say, you are running on your own, without any party affiliation?"

Navalny: "Yes, that is completely right."

Venediktov: "Why? There are parties that are prepared to support you. For example PARNAS (People's Freedom Party) has announced that it supports you. It is easier to run as a party candidate. Why have you decided to run on your own as a non-party [candidate] ?"

Navalny: "It is important for me to run as a people's candidate. This is what I have claimed. As I said in my address, I aspire to be the voice of those millions of people who have no political representation. That is why I would like to run as a people's candidate. Yes, that means I will need to collect more signatures, but they will be real signatures, those of my genuine supporters, who will not only sign, but also, I hope, will help me in my campaign."

Venediktov: "As you know, today (or maybe yesterday) I posted on my Twitter account a poll on whether or not the Kremlin will let you run. And I saw that you voted 'Yes'. Why? Why are you sure you will be allowed to run?"

Navalny: "Because in my view, we should not even think otherwise. Allowed or not allowed -- that by

itself signifies an illegal system. That is a peculiar feature of Russian elections: our ]first[ concern is not how many votes we will get, but how difficult it is to get on the ballot. And that is why when I view this campaign, I assume that I will be a candidate, that my name will be on the ballot and I have no desire to consider any alternatives, as I have a moral, legal and political right to participate in this election."

Venediktov: "… We will return to the topic of morality and legality. Nonetheless, Alexey Anatolievich, when I asked you the question about a false start, I meant that you can only put forward your candidature after an announcement that the election campaign [has begun]. Under the presidential elections law. It is still one year until that announcement. What do you intend to achieve during this year? For what do you need this year?"

Navalny: "That is one of the reasons why I participate in politics . Because I strongly disagree with this, that

campaigns in Russia can only start once the election season has been announced. Only 3 or 4 months remain, and the candidates suddenly emerge from nowhere and start running around looking for votes. Politicians should be busy between elections as well. Serious campaigns should begin two years before elections. As we just saw, the presidential campaign in the U.S. has lasted longer than 2 years. Because it is a big, even huge project and requires a lot of work. And so... Frankly, I don't get it. A few people have already entered the race, they are different parties' candidates. Why aren't they doing anything yet? Look at me, I have just one year and three months..."

Venediktov: "But you must be happy that they are not doing anything."

Navalny: "That maybe so, it is joyful for me, but for the country it is a tragedy, because an election in Russia is not only a game with a preprogrammed result. Even the narrative itself is well known in advance."

Venediktov: "Let's not use words that someone in our audience may not understand."

Navalny: "The flow of this campaign, is really quite traditional: (a) nobody does anything; (b) debates are held, in which nobody participates and nobody watches them: (c) voting takes place, where everything has been decided. I would like to see a very campaign process that had important political meaning, a discussion of the basic choice that citizens will make. My program is quite different from that of the Kremlin's. I see that as a  basic choice I offer our citizens."

Venediktov: "We'll discuss your program and how it differs from the one proposed by the Kremlin. I keep recalling how four years ago our mutual friend [Russian TV anchor] Ksenia Sobchak who, when discussing you (that was in 2012, said: 'I see Alexey Navalny as Putin 2.0'."

Navalny: "Well, that is Ksenia Sobchak for you."

Venediktov: "But in retrospect, can you explain why she said that? She knows you much better than I do. Why did she think so?"

Navalny: "I think I know that. Ksenia is fond of extravagant catchy statements. She and I discussed

that recently, and she agrees that she was mistaken. She understands that, and that is more important for me."

Navalny: 'I Think That Putin And His Family Members Must Be Granted Immunity, That Is An Important Condition Of The Transfer Of Power'

Venediktov: "We'll talk with her about that. What do you and Putin have in common? Here, I just got a text message: 'Would you agree that Putin quite likes your ideas' — Irek form Ufa asks."

Navalny: "An appreciable part of those things that I actually am going to do Putin has been voicing aloud but has failed to implement. For the last 17 years, he has been saying that entrepreneurs must be granted more freedom. For the same 17 years, he has been promising to reduce government meddling in the economy, but it only grows constantly. So Putin's rhetoric indeed sounds reasonable. Likewise, my program is also based on reasonable principles that is why we see some purely textual overlap. But in reality we clearly see that his sole motive is to enhance his personal power to make sure that he never has to yield that power to anyone and so is able to remain the emperor of Russia for life. I categorically disagree with that, and this is one of the things I intend to discuss in these elections.."

Venediktov: "We'll talk more about that. Our guest is Alexey Navalny. Alexey Anatolievich, besides the false start, there is another factor present. I mean the lawsuit currently underway in Kirov that may result in your being disqualified as a candidate. And some observers suggest that by announcing your candidature now, you are in effect trying to take the court hostage.By deciding on a guilty verdict, they would accuse themselves of political interference, by removing you from the election process."

Navalny: "I realize that. What can I say? For the last five years, I don't recall a single day when I was not on this trial or the next. Whatever I did, all those observers kept saying: 'Well, he lets this investigation go on so that they could not do to him this or that'. As the government endlessly keeps framing me for criminal matters, these affairs are endlessly considered. I can say the following: we had planned our announcement a while ago, before the trial started. We had chosen an approximate moment when we would come out with the announcement. And I don't care at all about that trial since the moment when..."

Venediktov: "Please explain. Please explain."

Navalny: "When the European Court of Human Rights issued its verdict that my conviction must be nullified, I knew for sure that the Supreme Court will overturn it. And I knew exactly that they will do that in the most unpleasant way for me, namely to refer the case back to Kirov. And the only question that remained was when they would do that. That is why in my life's schedule and my political activities I disregard all these lawsuits. I know that these trials are ongoing, I know there will be new ones, simply because that this is the toolkit that the government uses not only against me, but others as well (stirring up criminal investigations.) One way or another, the lawsuits will go on. If I started planning my entire activity on the basis of these trials paying attention to them while planning my life, I won't be able to achieve anything at all."

Venediktov: "Did I understand you correctly that you decided to announce your candidacy for president in disregard of the ongoing Kirov lawsuit?"

Navalny: "Exactly right. Exactly right. Once the European Court of Human Rights had issued its decision, I had the solid legal basis. Not merely the moral and political one. From that moment, I knew for sure that I would participate in all debates and all meetings with voters. And if anyone in the crowd were to ask me 'Are you a felon?', I would reply that I had defeated the prosecution in court and proved that the charges had been trumped up. That means that I am fully entitled to take part in the campaign. And that is when I began to seriously ponder my decision."

Venediktov: "So, legally speaking, you are not a felon… So here I am asking you from a crowd of journalists: 'Are you a felon?'"

Navalny: "Legally speaking, by Russian law I am not only a felon, but a repeat offender as there were other cases where I was on trial. But I still have the right to run."

Venediktov: "… We have received more than 200 questions, and Alexey Anatolievich selected six of them. That is his choice. I will ask three of them now and three later. Mikhail from St. Petersburg: when you win in 2018, how will you deal with crooks, thieves and gangsters?"

Navalny: "Fair and just trials. No extrajudicial measures. They must all go on trial, ideally by jury."

Venediktov: "Will you by that time have conducted a judicial reform? As the very same judges who..."

Navalny: "Since I speak of a fair trial that, of course, means the court system after the judicial reform. And it is not so difficult to do a partial reform, that is to make the judiciary truly independent. Judges must be liberated from the diktat of the court chairman, they must not be appointed by the president or the so-called qualifying boards. This is feasible. We have enough qualified people to serve in the court system. That is why I do not doubt my capacity (nor that of government in general) to conduct a high-quality judicial reform resulting in creation of courts that will try rogues and non-rogues fairly. Rogues will be put away and innocent people released."

Venediktov: "In this regard, what do you think of Mikhail Khodorkovsky's idea, if I have understood him correctly, that in order to facilitate a bloodless transition of power, we should simply give them a chance to leave the scene?"

Navalny: "Who are 'them'?"

Venediktov: "Those you suspect of being crooks and thieves."

Navalny: "I think this is impossible and makes no sense. What does it mean 'to leave the scene'? Does it mean they will remain in their posts? This is one reason we did not get democracy in the 1990s. Because all those people who committed crimes, even according to the Soviet Criminal Code in force at the time, went scot free. I think that Putin and his family members must be granted immunity, that is an important condition of the transfer of power... But should the same be offered to people like [Rosneft Executive Chairman Igor] Sechin, [Russian businessman Arkady] Rotenberg, and so on? Certainly not. If so, why bother changing anything at all -- if we are going to let them keep their illegally gained billions and leave them in their posts where they could keep controlling the economy?"

Venediktov: "Simply let them retire. Like, you know, in Georgia, where traffic cops were told: 'Take everything and leave, just give up your weapons'."

Navalny: "What does it mean 'retire'?"

Venediktov: "That is what happened in Georgia. When [former Georgian president Mikheil] Saakashvili was getting rid of the traffic police, he told them: 'OK, just give up your weapons and you keep everything [else]'."

Navalny: "We can deal like this with traffic cops..."

Venediktov: 'I said: 'like with traffic cops'."

Navalny: "... or other low-level corrupt people, but what about those who control oil companies, or who control infrastructure, who control like seaports? They are in control of the whole economy."

Venediktov: "Retirement."

Navalny: "They own everything. Should we confiscate their property and let them retire? Or simply let them retire? This way they will retain full control."

Venediktov: "I don't know. You are the presidential candidate."

Navalny: "An that is why I say that it is impossible to pension off people who seized the entire economy. According to official data, the government, that is to say, specific government officials, control about 80% of the economy. And in reality the figure is higher. No retirement for them -- they must go on trial. Fair and just trial, nothing extrajudicial."

Venediktov: "So, no lustration?[3]"

Navalny: "Lustration presumes punishment without specific guilt -- we will simply punish you for serving as a government official. I mean something entirely different, namely..."

Venediktov: "Just to clarify: does that mean that you are against lustration in general?"

Navalny: "I am in favor of lustration, but here I am talking of something else. This is calling to account people who violated the Criminal Code in force at the time. All of them, starting with those who incarcerate political activists for political articles and concluding with those who conduct privatization the way they do, break the laws. They must be put on trial."

Venediktov To Navalny: 'Are You More A Trump Or A Sanders?'

Venediktov: "…Kolya Safronov asks: 'What will be the first [presidential] decree that you sign'?"

Navalny: "I can even name three. First, to free all political prisoners. This is not just a measure to protect human rights, this should also improve the investment climate. Second, to enforce the law prohibiting illegal personal enrichment. And third, to start the judicial reform we discussed earlier, as without it no other reform could occur."

Venediktov: "How are you going to deal with the State Duma where the constitutional majority is held by the party you labeled 'the Party of Crooks and Thieves'?"

Navalny: "It must be reelected. This Duma was elected illegally, according to illegal rules. Some important players were barred from running. The falsifications that took place are sufficient to mandate repeat elections. At the same time, I have no doubt that in any Duma you will find deputies in opposition to myself or any other president. This is normal. Any normal president needs a strong opposition and the major task of any president who wishes to govern well is to achieve a parliamentary majority that would allow him to pass the necessary laws by way of compromises, possibly even difficult ones. That is the only way. That is how democracy works."

Venediktov: "… Some say that your rhetoric resembles Trump's. Others say your program and rhetoric resembles Sanders. Some people on our site… compare you with Hitler-lite. But everyone agrees that you are a populist. How do you understand populism? What does it mean for you? Do you agree that you are a populist?"

Navalny: "I don't understand that term with regards to Russian politics. This broad spectrum when people that compares me to such diametrically opposite figures as Sanders and Trump, attests that people themselves don't quite understand what they are talking about. Indeed, I put forward a number of ideas that are supported and demanded by the majority of the people. Why is it that in the conventional political environment it is customary to call politicians like me 'populists' by, say, political scientists? I am not ashamed of even a single proposal that I made neither the introduction of the visa regime nor the increase of the minimal wage. This is not populism, just reasonable measures."

Venediktov: "Alexey Anatolievich, are you more a Trump or a Sanders? Right or left?"

Navalny: "Well, that is impossible to..."

Venediktov: "OK, are you more of a social democrat or a conservative liberal?"

Navalny: "Well, Alexey Alexeyevich, you can't really..."

Venediktov: "In our country."

Navalny: "All these terms... They are all just meaningless in our country."

Venediktov: "I see your point."

Navalny: "Because Russian liberals would correspond to U.S. Republicans. And furthermore, people known in Russia as 'liberal economists' would be seen as infernal ultra-conservatives by American standards. Everything is upside down in Russia, all these labels are inapplicable."

Venediktov: "All right. Now, Trump demands to build a wall and you demand to introduce a visa regime on

our Mexican border. Is there a similarity here? The common objective is to limit illegal immigration by means of barriers."

Navalny: "This is indeed a part of my agenda. It is conservative and is similar to that of Republicans. At the same time, a different part (which is in fact the central part of my program), the one that deals with the problem of inequality is much closer to the Democrat's line. However, my ideas do not originate from any cool thing that I saw in Trump's program and decided to adopt for myself. They grew out of my understanding of Russia's problems. It is these problems that I tackle in my writing, and I am sure that my program is in fact the program of the majority of our people. And the focus groups confirm that by the way."

Venediktov: "OK, we will discuss focus groups later. One more question you have selected. Black72: 'If you

are elected, will you seek to shorten the presidential term down to four years'?"

Navalny: "Absolutely. This is the most important concern. The term must be four years, not six. Six years

is insane. And we must also have strict two-term limits. That is the only way to achieve the normal transition of power. You have worked for four years. If you have done a good job, you get four more years. After eight

years -- bye bye! Even the greatest human being..."

Venediktov: "And so you will retire at 52?"

Navalny: "If it so happens that I am elected in 2018, I will. But that will not be the end of my life. That is quite normal: someone becomes president, then leaves and takes up something else. That is how it works in democratic countries, and so it should work in Russia as well. And the system that allows a person to govern for 17 years is no good. Anyone will go bad in 17 years. We have never seen anyone govern for 10 or more years without going bad, this is simply impossible. Human experience attests to that. And the Russia's experience as well. In 2002-2003 Putin accomplished some positive results... As we know, in 1999, [slain opposition leader Boris] Nemtsov's election slogan was 'Putin for President'. But the only thing Putin of 2016-2017 cares about is how to enrich himself and retain power."

Venediktov: "Last question before the news. 30 seconds. Tell me, the support provided for you by the PARNAS party, does it benefit you or is it a burden?"

Navalny: "The support by any political organization is certainly beneficial to me. And I am grateful to the PARNAS for their support. As well as to all individuals [supporting me]. There are different people. Some make fairly harsh statements that I strongly disagree with. They support me and I want to tell them 'thanks for your support'. This does not mean that I share their views completely, but I would still fight for every vote."

Venediktov: "…I am not yet done with Black72, he also asks: 'Have you decided on your candidate for prime minister?'"

Navalny: "I will not make any appointments nor mention any specific names until we enter the final stage of the campaign. That is to say, until the official announcement. And until after the registration."

Venediktov: "Why?"

Navalny: "Because then we will have debates, the press will give broader coverage, so that makes perfect sense. The campaign should be picking up steam. And our political-organizational task today is to get registered [as a candidate]."

Venediktov: "So it is not [former Yukos owner and critic of the Kremlin, Mikhail] Khodorkovsky."

Navalny: "No names until after the registration."

Venediktov: "Nor even [the liberal political party Yabloko's leader, Grigory] Yavlinsky."

Navalny: "Alexey Alexeyevich, we consider many candidates. All of them are interesting people, so I have no doubt that we will form an effective team that will govern the country much better than what is being done now. The financial and economic indicators, both published by the government and seen by economists, keep getting worse every year. For the third or fourth year in a row, the population's real incomes keep falling. The country is sliding into an economic catastrophe. As far as the country's problems are concerned, they are just being clumsily patched up by incessant appeals to an international agenda. When they can't answer 'why the roads are so bad', they talk to us about Palmyra and Aleppo. I have no doubt we will form a team that will run things properly."

Navalny: 'I Am Skeptical Regarding The Speed Of The Resolution Of The Crimean Crisis Or The Reconciliation With Ukraine In General'

Venediktov: "Alexey Navalny is in our studio. As you have mentioned the international affairs, let us revisit our favorite topic. Crimea. How does your program address Crimea? And Ukraine? Please do them separately, Crimea and Ukraine."

Navalny: "Our program is to..."

Venediktov: "No-no-no, not your team's program, but your own program, as a candidate for president."

Navalny: "I understand."

Venediktov: "Then it would be better to use 'I' rather than 'we'."

Navalny: "My program devotes a great deal of attention to emerging from international isolation as it is extremely important for the economic growth. It is crucially important for the economic growth to get the sanctions lifted and so on. The first thing we should do toward the normalizing relations is..."

Venediktov: "You should?"

Navalny: "Russia should -- and Russia will do it under President Navalny -- implement the Minsk agreements. It is one of those things we discussed earlier: Putin talks constantly about them but does fulfill them. The Minsk agreements must be implemented and that will be the first step so they will lift the sanctions from Russia. As for Crimea, the only way to start tackling this problem, getting to think about it, draw roadmaps, etc. is to hold a real referendum. My position on this has not changed. Enough time for everybody to campaign, totally free and honest referendum. And when we understand the manifest will of the Crimean people is, we can do something .

"However, I am skeptical regarding the speed of the resolution of the Crimean crisis or the reconciliation with Ukraine in general. I think the problem of Crimea will not be resolved within the next decade. Our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be still discussing what can be done with Crimea. Similar to what is going on with Northern Cyprus or the status of Jerusalem, and so on. There are problems that some politicians have bequeathed us that are impossible to solve quickly, effectively and with mutual good will and I fear that Crimea is one of these problems. I am afraid that the Crimean crisis is one such problem.

 And the problem that needs a real solution, an open wound that needs urgent healing, is that of our relations with Ukraine. We have created an enemy on our borders, a big country with the population of dozens of millions. And here we indeed must do a lot, starting with the implementation of the Minsk agreements."

Venediktov: "Alexey Navalny, do you for for your physical safety and that of your family? This question has been asked by a few listeners from different cities."

Navalny: "Let's put it this way. Recent events and the way they are investigated, attacks, murders, etc. – of course, this is not a pleasant subject to ponder. I am a live human being, I see dangers clearly. Whenever I... Wherever I travel now, I am always followed by some persons, they keep pestering me and it is obvious that they are protected by police. Of course, petty attacks can easily grow into something more serious, that is quite possible. Nevertheless, I am not afraid. If I were afraid, I would not be doing what I am doing now."

Venediktov: "What are you not afraid of?"

Navalny: "I am not afraid of anything. I think... The only thing I am afraid of is that one day I may get scared. And before issuing some, let's say, denouncing statement, I will start thinking: 'Maybe I should not do that, it is too scary'. I am afraid that such a moment will arrive. And I will keep doing and trying everything possible to prove to all that this moment will never arrive in my case."

Venediktov: "What do your family members think about your decision? Because it is a real challenge. Is it a challenge?"

Navalny: "My family supports me and I can only emphasize that you can't be doing what I am doing, you can't be a politician without your family's support. This is simply... This is a disaster for everyone. How can you possibly be doing that if you come home at night and don't hear from your wife the words of encouragement, well done, I support you for having exposed a certain person and so on. If your family members do not share your thinking, you are not ready to enter politics, you must first create a support group within your family."

Venediktov: "I ask you that question because I remember that you once told me in this very studio that your

brother is essentially being held hostage by the government. Perhaps he is not the only hostage? How are you going to solve the problem of hostage-taking in case someone resorts to that?"

Navalny: "How can you solve a problem like that?"

Venediktov: "I don't know."

Navalny: "I can only solve it by appealing to the people. I am not the only one who is subject to this hostage-taking. Our big problem is that there are so many political prisoners in Russia. Presently, we don't even know their names, every day some people just put their 'likes' under posts. They arrest and incarcerate them, and we don't even hear about that. And the media no longer covers that, the cases are too numerous.

"That is why... I really want my brother. who was unjustly convicted and who is actually held hostage, to be released from prison. But the problem must be solved in its entirety. The problem of unjust courts, the problem of a political regime that terrorizes people and holds them hostage. I know of someone who is currently sitting in jail for catching Pokémon in a church. This is insane! At the same time, people who have plundered millions are being released under house arrest or on bail. Police officers who had tortured suspects are given suspended sentences, but the people who are catching Pokémon are put away. This is a disaster. This is political degradation."

Venediktov: "Are you inclined to think that repressive punishment can correct human nature?"

Navalny: "Of course, not. I think this is exactly the problem our penitentiary system, the penal system is facing. What is happening now is that people are being seized and thrown into prison and they emerge as hardened criminals and having contracted tuberculosis and AIDS. That is how the system is working now, it is breeding prisoners, breaking their lives and their families' lives. It does not return them to society. No doubt, the prison population..."

Venediktov: "Should we mention [imprisoned political activist Ildar] Dadin?"

Navalny: "Yes, Dadin, for one. This is an outrageous example, someone who was tortured horribly. But there is a huge number of people who were arrested for no reason. Let us say, someone committed a petty theft. Or a college student was caught with a small amount of marijuana. OK, he made a mistake. But does he deserve a 5-year prison term that breaks his life and makes him a hardened criminal so that he keeps committing crimes later in his life? This is not the task of government."

Navalny: 'Russia Should Hold Primaries, 'And All Political Forces… Should Unite And Nominate A Single Candidate'

Venediktov: "… Let's now discuss allies rather than opponents. We know that on the eve of the State Duma election, lengthy discussions took place between the right-of-center oriented parties without parliamentary representation. Grigory Yavlinsky said he will run. And I looked at the election results in the Moscow districts where your candidate supported by PARNAS… was competing against a [Yavlinsky's party] Yabloko candidate. Invariably, the Yabloko candidate was beating your guy 12% to 8%. Don't you need to organize primaries within the parties outside parliament with Yavlinsky first to determine which of you actually commands the most support?"

Navalny: "First of all, it makes no sense to compare results in single-seat Duma districts as the situations are so different… As far as primaries are concerned, I have always been in favor of them. I generally think..."

Venediktov: "Who should be competing in the primaries?"

Navalny: "I think we should hold primaries to choose one candidate who will represent the entire opposition.I want [open] primaries with Communists, LDPR (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia) and A Just Russia participating. We should nominate..."

Venediktov: "Wait a minute. If [the illiberal nationalist] Liberal Democratic Party of Russia [if its leader] the honorable  [Vladimir] Zhirinovsky win the primaries, you pledge to support him?"

Navalny: "If they are genuine honest primaries, yes, of course. If I take part in the primaries, I must abide by their outcome. There is no other way."

Venediktov: "Are you saying that we will have Putin compete against someone who is anti-Putin (you can't say that [about Communist leader Gennady] Zyuganov or Zhirinovsky...)"

Navalny: "Yes, I am, saying that we should nominate one candidate [from the opposition] and he will run against..."

Venediktov: "Against Putin?"

Navalny: "Yes, against Putin. Because Putin usurped power and has no desire to give it back, he wishes to hold on to it for life. And all political forces that disagree with that should unite and nominate a single candidate. If we organize the primaries along those lines, I will of course take part in the hope of winning and becoming that [unity] candidate."

Venediktov: "Alexei Anatolievich, how do you envision the [primaries] mechanism? Pardon me for heaven's sake if that is not the most important question, but here you have Communists, you have A Just Russia, you have Yabloko. For argument's sake, let's imagine (in a bit of fantasy) that everybody agrees. Who will take part? What is the voting method. There are competing forces, communists, Zhirinovsky's people, your people. How???"

Navalny: "These are all good questions, Alexey Alexeyevich. There is no clear mechanism yet. This a political question first and foremost."

Venediktov: "Yes-yes-yes, that is exactly why I ask if you have any idea about that."

Navalny: "We never had primaries in Russia. The only election that was somewhat similar to the opposition primaries was the Coordination Council election where opposition candidates were competing with each other for real. Otherwise, in all the remaining cases everybody was trying to avoid having primaries. I am the only one who has been running around for a few years trying to push for primaries. So I can repeat again and again, I am in favor of primaries, I will take part and I hope to get the nomination."

Venediktov: "From Zyuganov and Zhirinovsky to [Eduard] Limonov [4]and Navalny?"

Navalny: "Yes, I agree to everyone's participation, assuming that it results in the nomination of a common candidate. If I don't win, I won't die of grief. On the contrary, I will do everything I can to make sure the nominated candidate wins [in the general election]. Nothing terrible will happen to me. That is how politics is supposed to work."

Venediktov: "Do you think that President Zhirinovsky or President Zyuganov is better than President Putin?"

Navalny: "Yes, I think each one of them is. That would simply mean he will be reelected after 4 years (or in 6 years as is currently [the presidential term of office].) Russia simply needs to have a leadership rotation; we need to end the current usurpation of power. That is our most pressing need. And that is why we need elections in the first place. I plan to address this subject a lot. That is why anyone... My God, even if we replace Putin with [Minister of Defense Sergey] Shoigu or [Prime Minister Dmitry] Medvedev or [Rosneft Executive Chairman Igor] Sechin... I can't even say who I detest the most in our government. Sechin or [First Deputy Prime Minister Igor] Shuvalov."

Venediktov: "Even so?"

Navalny: "Even that would be much better!"

Venediktov: "You have 20 seconds to tell our listeners something that I did not have a chance to ask you about. Here is Alexei Navalny who declared himself a candidate for president of Russia."

Navalny: "First of all, I would like to thank the 'Echo of Moscow' for this invitation. My dear friends, this is a serious decision. I am not playing games, neither with elites nor with criminal cases. This is a real election. I urge you to join my campaign, I aspire to be your voice in this election campaign. I am sure that with your support we can media censorship, defamation and everything else. We can achieve everything."

 

 

[1] Rbth.com, November 16, 2016.

[2]Echo.msk.ru, December 14, 2016.

[3] From the Latin for purification and refers to the laws passed in Eastern Europe following the fall of Communism disqualifying officials who had served the Communist regime.

[4] Limonov was formerly the leader of the Stalinist National Bolshevik Party which preached the reconstitution of the Russian empire.