Navalny Returns to Moscow, Confirms Bid For Mayor
MOSCOW, July 20 (RIA Novosti) – Convicted Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was freed by a court on Friday pending appeal, arrived back in his home city of Moscow by train Saturday morning and told a cheering crowd of supporters that he will run for mayor of the Russian capital in an upcoming election.
'We will go to the elections and we will win,' the 37-year-old told a crowd that gathered at the Yaroslavsky railway station and cheered 'Navalny - Moscow's mayor!'
"There is an election campaign ahead of us, seven weeks of pre-election battle," he said, and thanked all his supporters, without whose support, he said, he and co-defendant Pyotr Ofitserov would not have been released.
"We are a huge, powerful force. I'm very glad that we've started to recognize that force ourselves…I want to apologize to you for not believing so strongly in you," he said, adding he would be in his campaign headquarters every day.
He will run on behalf of the RPR-PARNAS opposition party that is headed by several liberal opposition figures and has been struggling to get an official registration for more than two years.
Police with loud-hailers ordered bystanders to clear the platform at the rail station as Navalny's train arrived, citing security concerns because an unattended object had been found.
Navalny was sentenced to five years by a court in the city of Kirov on Thursday and fined 500,000 rubles ($15,150) on embezzlement charges, and put into temporary custody. His conviction and the ensuring Thursday night rallies in Moscow and Russia's largest cities solidified Navalny's status of Russia's most popular opposition figure.
Russian liberal opposition is a collection of fractured groups hardly known outside Moscow. Their leaders are often seen as political has-beens that lack charisma and a coherent action plan.
Navalny was released Friday by the same court because his sentence will come into effect only ten days later. He is under orders not to leave Moscow until his sentence comes into effect.
His defense intends to appeal the verdict. Navalny has consistently claimed the charges against him were a political vendetta by the government in response to his anti-corruption campaigning and other opposition activities, a charge the Kremlin denies.
Navalny spearheaded massive protests against Vladimir Putin's return to a third presidency last May. In his immensely popular blog he has for years posted investigations into corruption among top government officials. He also dubbed Kremlin's United Russia party 'the party of crooks and thieves,' and the epithet is now often chanted at opposition rallies or seen on protest banners or T-shirts.
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