Navalny Arrives In Moscow, Vows To Win Mayoral Election
Last updated (GMT/UTC): 20.07.2013 08:14
by RFE/RL's Russian Service
Convicted Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has arrived in Moscow after being released on bail while he appeals his conviction on embezzlement charges.
Addressing a crowd of supporters who were waiting to greet him at Moscow's Yaroslavsky train station, Navalny thanked them and credited supporters with helping gain his release from detention in Kirov so he could campaign for mayor of Russia's capital.
Navalny said his freedom was a sign of the growing power of Russia's people. 'We are a huge, powerful force and I am glad you are starting to recognize your power,' he said.
The opposition leader and anticorruption blogger said the Russian authorities were starting to sense the power of the country's people as well, and it made them nervous.
'In court, their [officials'] hands were trembling and here they are trembling because in the courtroom there is no power, no authority but here [in the crowd] there is strength, here there is power,' he said. 'We here are the power!'
Navalny spoke of the upcoming campaign for Moscow mayor but he also mentioned that the struggle that helped free him, albeit temporarily, from detention needed to continue until other 'political prisoners' were also free.
'The last thing I want to say is there is a big and difficult election campaign, seven weeks of ceaseless work. And this is only the beginning,' he said.
'Let's not go out only one time to force the release of political prisoners. People from Bolotnaya [Square] are sitting in jail, [Maria] Alyokhina and [Nadezhda] Tolokonnikova [of Pussy Riot] are sitting in jail, [former oil tycoon Mikhail] Khodorkovsky and [his business partner Platon] Lebedev are in jail. We need to get them all freed. Let's fight for political power in our country right now!'
Twenty-seven people are still in detention for participating in a May 6, 2012, demonstration against Vladimir Putin's reelection as Russian president.
The two Pussy Riot members were jailed in 2012 after being found guilty of 'hooliganism motivated by religious hatred' for a 'punk prayer' against Putin they performed in a Moscow cathedral.
Former Yukos CEO Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003, not long after he started engaging in Russian politics, and is serving a prison sentence that expires in 2017. His business partner Platon Lebedev was arrested in 2005 and is serving a 13-year sentence.
And with these last comments, Navalny called on his supporters to disperse and allow the other passengers on the train to make their way out of the station.
Navalny said, 'We are headed to elections and we will win,' and exited to chants from the crowd of 'Navalny is our mayor!'
About the time Navalny's train arrived, Moscow police said they received an anonymous phone call saying a bomb had been planted at the Yaroslavsky station but minutes after Navalny stopped speaking police said the threat was a false alarm.
Moscow Mayor's Race
Navalny made the 900-kilometer trip from Kirov to Moscow overnight. Under the terms of his release, Navalny is restricted to travelling to Moscow, his official residence.
The court in Kirov said Navalny's continued incarceration would hurt his chances in Moscow's mayoral election in September.
The unexpected decision on July 19 came a day after another court in Kirov found Navalny and another man guilty of defrauding a local lumber firm of nearly $500,000 when he was an adviser to the Kirov governor in 2009.
Navalny was sentenced to five years in jail. The sentence, however, will not be implemented until the appeals process is completed.
The ruling sparked protests in Moscow and elsewhere in Russia and criticism from Washington and Brussels.
Navalny and his supporters said it was politically motivated.
Navalny was a key leader of mass demonstrations in Moscow against Vladimir Putin's reelection for a third presidential term in March 2012.
Asked if Navalny could be pardoned, a spokesman for Putin, Dmitry Peskov, said on July 19 that he would have to plead guilty first.
Acting Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, a close ally of Putin, said he would prefer to be challenged by Navalny.
Sobyanin is widely expected to win the race. Analysts say keeping Navalny out of the race could tarnish Sobyanin's expected victory.
With reporting by ITAR-TASS, Interfax, AP and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2013. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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