Navalny and Volkov

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WASHINGTON, DC — Russian Vladimir Putin made a mistake putting Alexei Navalny in prison because it’s turned him into a symbol, allowing him to attract attention worldwide, according to Leonid Volkov, the Russian opposition leader’s chief of staff. 

When Navalny was receiving treatment in Germany after being poisoned in Siberia last August, his aides discussed what could happen upon the anti-corruption campaigner’s return to Moscow and concluded it was probable he could be arrested and imprisoned. But they also thought it would be “dumb” of Putin to go this route, Volkov told Insider on Thursday while meeting with reporters during a visit to Washington, DC.

It would’ve been smarter for Putin to place Navalny under house arrest, Volkov said, which would not have caused a “wave of compassion and domestic and international interest” while “disabling him of executing his political duties.”

“Well, Putin preferred the dumb way,” Volkov said. 

Before Navalny went to prison, he was the “political leader” of a vast network in Russia that largely focused on investigation and exposing corruption, Volkov said, but now that Putin has thrown him behind bars he’s becoming a “symbol” who offers “moral leadership.” Volkov said Navalny has a particularly strong appeal among younger voters in Russia, underscoring that Putin is losing the war to win over this demographic.

After he was arrested upon returning to Moscow in January, Navalny was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for violating parole — including while he received treatment in Germany — from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that leading human rights groups decried as politically motivated.

Navalny’s imprisonment led to mass protests across Russia in recent months, with young demonstrators flooding the streets of major cities. 

Currently living in exile in Lithuania, Volkov came to the US this week to voice the concerns of Navalny’s …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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