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‘It's probably just a coincidence’ A soccer player and an actor explain why they suddenly decided to join the same Moscow City Duma race as a high-profile opposition activist

Source: Meduza

On June 15, the well-known Russian hospice advocate Nyuta Federmesser announced her decision to drop out of the race for a Moscow City Duma seat in the capital’s downtown. She had been planning to run in the city’s 43rd District, where she would have faced one of the area’s most prominent opposition activists: Lyubov Sobol is an attorney for the Anti-Corruption Foundation, which is run by opposition politician Alexey Navalny. Sergey Mitrokhin, the former chairperson of the opposition-leaning Yabloko party, is also running in the same district, but he is viewed as a more likely collaborator for Moscow City Hall than Sobol. Alexey Navalny had publicly called on Federmesser not to run for the seat so as not to draw votes away from Sobol, and Federmesser’s decision to run also met with harsh criticism on social media. Immediately after the palliative care advocate withdrew from the 43rd District race, however, two new candidates entered it: former soccer player and Russian national team member Dmitry Bulykin and actor Andrey Sokolov. We asked both why they have decided so suddenly to run for this particular Moscow City Duma seat.

Dmitry Bulykin

Former soccer player for Dynamo, Lokomotiv, Ajax, and the Russian national team

Roman Vladimirov / Sputnik / Scanpix / LETA

I know a lot of people in politics from a lot of different parties, and I know a number of government officials. I have friends and acquaintances everywhere. I can’t even count them all — I have friends in every area.

And I want to do something useful for the city and the country too. So I decided to try my hand at politics. Right now, a lot of athletes all over the world are getting into politics, and some of them are even becoming presidents. So why not?

I don’t know at this point whether politics will become the center of my professional life. Right now, I’m just starting to collect the signatures I need to run [for the City Duma], and I haven’t thought about that yet. My friends in politics have been telling me to try it, get some experience, and then decide whether it’s for me or not.

Of course, I’ll have a platform with specific steps toward what I want to do in my district. I’ll write them, describe them, and try to fulfill them. I want to lean on what the residents of the area themselves tell me. I’ll ask them what problems they have when I go door-to-door and collect signatures. In other words, I won’t just be working on [developing] sports in my district. I think I’ll end up with a popular program that I’ll then present publicly.

I decided to run in this district because I live in Khamovniki myself, and I run the Krasnaya Presnya stadium. I know everything around here. I’m running in my own district’s elections.

I didn’t know anything [about the situation in the 43rd District race], and I don’t know [Nyuta Federmesser] personally. It’s probably just a coincidence that I got my documents ready on that particular day. I didn’t get any requests or offers from the mayor’s office or from any political parties. There wasn’t anything like that.

I haven’t analyzed the situation surrounding the election in the district myself at this point. I have a small team that will analyze the situation and then give me that information. For now, I have to collect signatures, and then we can analyze everything later.

Andrey Sokolov

Actor, director, co-chair of All-Russia People’s Front for Moscow Region

Mikhail Tereshchenko / TASS
Andrey Sokolov declined to answer questions from Meduza directly and instead pointed journalists to a post he wrote on Facebook. The bulk of that post is translated here.

Answers to a few questions:

1. Why now, connections to the regime, etc.

As a certain lady wrote to me, “… you already stretched your wings in this same district a couple of years ago.”

That really happened, and back then, I said I would try again in two years. Two years have passed.

I don’t have any connections to the regime. Yes, I got offers from various parties at various levels. Doing this independently is harder in some ways, but it’s less stressful in others — I won’t owe anything to anyone.

2. Until Nyuta dropped out of the race, I was “at the ready,” and I probably wouldn’t have run because she’s exactly the person who would have been at home and able to be useful. But after people started treating her in extremely ugly, cruel ways, I put in an application.

3. My priorities haven’t changed. I grew up in Moscow, and apart from the cultural issues I work on directly, there are also everyday issues that affect me too. I want the city to preserve its unique façade, I want the storm drains to work, I don’t want unnecessary paving renovations, I don’t want artists to lose their studios, etc.

I’m not a politician, and I’ll never slink in that direction. Each of us should do what is in their power.

Pavel Merzlikin

Translation by Hilah Kohen

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