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What’s to come of Navalny’s presidential bid if he’s imprisoned? Navalny’s head campaigner – oppositionist Leonid Volkov – offers some thoughts

11:52, 1 february 2017

Photo: Yevgeny Kurskov / TASS / Scanpix / LETA

Police and bailiffs came to the offices of Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation on Tuesday, January 31, 2017 to force Navalny to travel to Kirov to attend an upcoming hearing on the Kirovles case. Hearings on this case occur almost on a daily basis. According to Navalny, “the Kremlin is interested in making a speedy conviction”, as such a development would prevent the politician from participating in Russia’s presidential election in 2018. Meduza’s correspondent Evgeny Berg spoke with the chief of Navalny’s campaign team Leonid Volkov about the bid’s fate in the event of Navalny’s imprisonment.

How does the Navalny campaign interpret the events surrounding the retrial of the Kirovles case?

This is a continuation of [the set] strategy, namely passing a new judgment in the Kirovles case as soon as possible. [In order for this to be possible], meetings were cleared, the trial on the murder of [politician Boris] Nemtsov was moved.For this cleared all meetings, moved the process of killing [politician Boris] Nemtsov. [The second defendant in the case] Pyotr Ofitserov was inspected at the hospital and asked to be released immediately.

Of course, this is not the way in which things are done. There are normal procedures. Judges, lawyers, defendants agree on meeting dates. This was the way it was before the New Year, but [since then] the case has been going at top speed.

Why is this happening?

Presently, I am going to fly to St. Petersburg, where our regional headquarters are set to open on February 4. We have just announced the opening of 77 regional headquarters in the next three months. We believe that [the federal government] want sto pass judgment before the beginning of our activities in the regions in order to demoralize our supporters, telling them: “Why are you donating money to the campaign? After all, Navalny has been sentenced [and], unfortunately, is not allowed to run. Let us discuss this. After all, maybe we should be rallying around [chairman of the Yabloko party] Grigory Yavlinsky? Or [Party of Growth chairman] Boris Titov?”

They will pass a guilty verdict. Navalny will lose the formal right to run. Then they will come to close the regional headquarters. [Those in power] really do not want us to take the political campaign to the regions.

Are you expecting a guilty verdict?

This is impossible to predict, because the work of the court [in the Kirovles trial] is not based on the law. Our game plans are based on the various scenarios, [amongst them] the scenario that the verdict will be guilty.

If there a plan for a scenario in which Navalny is imprisoned?

Of course there is. We will do the same thing: deploy a regional network, campaign, increase political pressure to ensure that, by December, when the decision is made on the registration of candidates, it is clear in the public’s mind that the presidential campaign cannot take place without Navalny. The political campaign we will be conducted regardless of the court’s decision.

If Navalny is imprisoned, will you call people out onto the streets?

People will take to the streets of their own accord. Nobody will need to be incited [to protest]. It is unknown [exactly] how many will protest. People who came out after Navalny's sentences in July 2013 and December 2014 did so out of [feelings] of injustice. Emotions cannot be predicted, planned, or organized.