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‘Candidate in handcuffs’: Kremlin critic campaigns from jail – Times of India

KRASNODAR, Russia: With parliamentary elections in Russia across the nook, canvassers in the southern metropolis of Krasnodar are asking passersby to jot down letters to their candidate, who has no solution to meet them.
That’s as a result of Kremlin critic Andrei Pivovarov is behind bars simply down the street.
Arrested on the finish of May, Pivovarov’s supporters say he was caught in a dragnet that has seen Russia’s opposition dismantled forward of State Duma elections this weekend.
With family names like Alexei Navalny in jail, his allies in exile and lesser recognized activists barred from working or jailed like Pivovarov, the Kremlin is about to keep up its stranglehold on the legislature.
In a handwritten letter to AFP from Detention Centre No. 1 — surrounded by barbed wire topped concrete partitions — Pivovarov conceded his election probabilities have been minimal.
He mentioned his marketing campaign — managed by mail by way of one of his legal professionals and run by a number of dozen volunteers from Krasnodar, Moscow and his hometown of Saint Petersburg — was a platform for his message.
“I want people who learn about my campaign to understand that the moment has arrived when those who speak the truth are tossed in prison just for their words,” Pivovarov wrote.
The 39-12 months-previous introduced final 12 months he deliberate to run in Moscow.
But when Navalny returned to Russia from Germany in January after recovering from a poisoning he blames on the Kremlin, the authorities launched a crackdown.
Pivovarov was a goal. He had labored with organisations based by the exiled Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky together with the professional-democracy group Open Russia outlawed in 2017.
Yanked off a Warsaw-bound airplane in Saint Petersburg in May, Pivovarov was whisked 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) south to Krasnodar and charged with involvement with an “undesirable” organisation.
He is dealing with six years in jail in a case resting on a Facebook publish penned from Krasnodar in 2019, voicing help for a Khodorkovsky-aligned activist working in native elections.
In his letter, which he signed “candidate in handcuffs,” Pivovarov mentioned the authorities needed to “shut my mouth”.
“That’s why the case was launched in Krasnodar, far from Moscow and Saint Petersburg,” he wrote from jail.
Pivovarov is the one opposition candidate nonetheless working amongst at the least seven who deliberate to poll however have been arrested.
The liberal Yabloko celebration included Pivovarov on their Krasnodar record in a “humanitarian” gesture, it mentioned.
But analyst Alexander Kynev says he has “no chance” of being elected.
Yabloko, Kynev famous, has by no means received greater than two % of the vote in Krasnodar — a metropolis of some a million individuals and a stronghold of President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia celebration.
United Russia appeared so certain of victory its native workplace informed AFP it wasn’t working any marketing campaign occasions in Krasnodar lower than two weeks earlier than the vote.
Kynev mentioned authorities had allowed Yabloko to again Pivovarov so the celebration might decide up “some of the protest vote”.
Yabloko is seen as half of Russia’s token opposition that serves to draw liberal discontent. But, Kynev says, the authorities are relying extra on blunt techniques to safe a win this weekend.
“The authorities have made a final bet on legitimacy by brute force,” he informed AFP.
In their clampdown, authorities have focused dissenting voices throughout the board, designating most main impartial media as “foreign agents” and slapping the label with Soviet-era echoes on a prime election monitor.
Pivovarov’s marketing campaign members haven’t escaped the strain.
A volunteer in Moscow and citizen of ex-Soviet Tajikistan who lived in Russia most of his life, 22-12 months-previous Saidanvar Sulaymonov mentioned he left the nation earlier this month after studying he confronted an entry ban.
He mentioned it was a 40-12 months ban and confirmed AFP a screenshot of an inside ministry response saying it had “grounds” for blocking his return, although it gave no purpose.
The inside ministry didn’t reply to AFP’s request for remark.
Roman Pilipenko, a 27-12 months-previous lawyer in Krasnodar, mentioned he joined Pivovarov’s marketing campaign as a result of he needed to focus on “injustice” and warn Russians their county is “sliding into hard autocracy.”
He stood close to a grocery store some 100 metres down the street from Detention Centre No. 1 speaking to pensioners and youngsters who stopped to ask who was featured on the cardboard cutout of Pivovarov. No one had heard of him.
Pilipenko informed AFP the group’s precedence through the election might be vote monitoring, describing it as the one solution to maintain authorities from falsifying ballots.
Not everyone seems to be satisfied the opposition will succeed.
Across the road from the volunteers, a watermelon vendor watched as wind knocked over the cardboard cutout.
“That’s a bad omen,” he mentioned.

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