Former head of Navalny’s St. Petersburg headquarters flees Russia fearing persecution
Irina Fatyanova, the former head of Alexey Navalny’s St. Petersburg campaign headquarters, has revealed that she left Russia about a week ago.
“This was the most difficult decision of my life,” Fatyanova wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday, November 24.” She went on to explain that over the past year, her “red line” has shifted constantly, as she resigned herself to the possibility of facing fines, administrative detention, searches and interrogations, and even criminal prosecution.
However, the recent arrest of Liliya Chanysheva, the former head of Navalny’s Ufa headquarters, was the final straw. “The story with Liliya Chanysheva changed a lot [of things] and helped me understand that I needed to leave,” Fatyanova explained.
Fatyanova added that she’s unsure when she will return to Russia:
“I’ll be honest: I’m sad and it’s painful. I left everything in Russia: my beloved dog, relatives, closest friends, my own corner and belongings, many of which are associated with specific people and happy moments in [my] life. [...] I don’t know when I will return. I want to believe [it will be] soon. But I need to be ready for everything.”
A Moscow court outlawed Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (the FBK), Citizens’ Rights Protection Foundation, and national network of campaign offices as “extremist organizations” in June 2021. Shortly thereafter, the State Duma adopted legislation banning anyone linked to outlawed “extremist organizations” from running in elections in Russia.
Irina Fatyanova planned to run for St. Petersburg’s Legislative Assembly during the September 2021 elections, but election officials barred her nomination citing her “involvement in an extremist organization.” Law enforcement subsequently raided her apartment.
In early November, authorities in Ufa arrested the former head of Navalny’s local campaign office, Liliya Chanysheva, as the first suspect in the criminal case opened against Navalny and his close associates for “creating an extremist group.” If convicted, Chanysheva will face up to ten years in prison.