Russian Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny will Run for Mayor of Moscow
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny told cheering supporters on Saturday he wants to contest and win an election to become Moscow mayor after being freed on bail while he fights a five-year jail sentence.
Hundreds of people, some waving white roses, gave one of President Vladimir Putin’s biggest critics a hero’s welcome when he arrived in Moscow on the overnight train from Kirov, the industrial city where he was convicted of theft on Thursday.
The crowd applauded the tired-looking anti-corruption campaigner as he stepped off the train and chanted: “Navalny is our mayor” and “We represent power”.
“We have a big and difficult election campaign ahead of us. Seven weeks of work non-stop. And that is only the beginning,” Navalny told the crowd through a megaphone. “Let’s fight for political power in the country right now.”
Punching the air with his fist, his wife Yulia at his side, he said: “We will certainly win! Let’s get to work! We are going for elections and we will win.”
Navalny, 37, can run for mayor on September 8 if he can string out his appeal until then. Winning would hand him a propaganda victory and give him of the most influential jobs in the country, with offices a few hundred meters from the Kremlin.
But opinion polls show Navalny trailing far behind Sergei Sobyanin, who is seeking a new term as mayor, and suggest he has little chance of defeating a Putin ally who has state media behind him and the levers of power at his disposal.
Under the watchful eye of police, Navalny told his supporters at Moscow’s Yaroslavl Station that it was thanks to their pressure that he had been released.
“You have made it possible to release these men the next day,” he said, referring to himself and Pyotr Ofitserov, who was sentenced to four years as his accomplice. “Compared to that, it is easy to win elections.”