Weeks Surrounding Moscow Mayor Elections Fraught with Provocations

September 4, 2013
Izvestiya/Kirill Zykov

For weeks, social media and Russian newspapers have circulated rumors that Navalny’s supporters were planning riots, and other illegal or nefarious actions, in the lead-up and wake of the September 8th mayoral election in Moscow. Most of these reports have been accusations without any supporting evidence. Now, Izvestia, a newspaper with close ties to the government, is publishing the following claims.

The opposition in Russia has been known to block intersections or hold unauthorized political rallies. In July they held such a rally when Alexei Navalny was sentenced to a prison term. That protest was peaceful, however. Last week, Navalny held a smaller rally that he called a “meeting with voters,” but it was dispersed and Navalny was briefly detained because he did not have the proper permits.

It’s worth note that soccer fan clubs are often hired by United Russia, the party of Vladimir Putin and Sergei Sobyanin, and have been deployed against the opposition in the past, making this particular claim even more curious. That is one reason why there was so much attention when plain-clothed men appeared to try to unplug a generator at the rally last week, with the apparent and suspected help of police. This raises the question as to whether Navalny’s opposition might make trouble for him either before or after the election in order to frame the opposition for bad behavior. Navalny is perceived as a radical by some of Moscow’s populace, despite the fact that there’s little evidence that Navalny’s campaign has ever condoned any sort of action like the ones described below. Therefore. riots could undermine his chances at the polls, or trample his legacy.

As we pointed out, however, it’s also possible that some in the opposition have exaggerated some of the wrongdoing of the police on some occasions. It seems that some on all sides of this race are slinging mud in the lead-up to Sunday’s election. – Ed.

An informed source in the power ministries has told Izvestiya that from between the 3rd and 9th of September, a series of special actions may possibly be conducted by Alexei Navalny, candidate for mayor from PRP PARNAS [the Russian Republican Party-Popular Freedom Party] — from the creation of artificial traffic jams in Moscow to fake smoke bombs in the metro and a staged “destruction of campaign headquarters by soccer fans.” Such actions are intended to discredit the government on the eve of the elections and provoke the public to mass disorders, the source suggests.

According to information from intelligence services, Navalny’s campaign intendeds to publish the results of surveys from volunteers according to which his level of support is in the range of 30-35%. After this, conflicts are possible with his campaign “cubes” [large advertising blocks] involving soccer fans. It is possible that traffic jams will be artificially created on roads and in the most unfavorable turn of events, smoke bombs will be put in the metro stations of the Sokolniki and Tagansko-Krasnopresnenskaya lines.

“The largest-scale action, apparently, will be the staged break-in of Navalny’s campaign headquarters on Lyalin Lane, which is being prepared for 4 September. According to our information, fans from the movement Fratria (Spartak team fans—Izvestiya) may be brought in who will use the insignia of the Young Guard and Sobyanin’s supporters,” the source told Izvestiya.

The operation to destroy Navalny’s campaign headquarters on Lyalin Lane, according to the source has been dubbed “Big Bang – Headquarters Move”. During a briefing for journalists planned for 4 September at 17:30, several young people with bats are supposed to break in and start smashing equipment and furniture, says the source. Volunteers and journalists who will be in the office are not supposed to suffer. After that, the headquarters will move to Krivokolenny Lane No. 1/8, bld. 3. In that building, the lesser-known part of Navalny’s staff are already located, and are led by the head of the whole campaign staff, Leonid Volkov.

Aside from this, on election day, according to the source in the power ministries, provocations at voting stations are possible – an attack on supporters of Navalny at the voting booths, conflicts with the representatives of acting mayor Sergei Sobyanin and so on. But on the next day after the elections, 9 September, the source recounts, opposition members unhappy with the results may try to storm the Kremlin. Fans from possibly the Dinamo soccer team may be brought in to provoke a fight.

The Main Directorate of the Russian Interior Ministry for Moscow [the police] told Izvestiya that it possesses surveillance information that the campaign headquarters of one of the mayoral candidates is preparing protest actions about the elections without waiting for the results of the poll.

“Representatives of the headquarters are organizing travel to the capital and stays at rented apartments for residents of other regions in order for them to take part in protest actions on 8-9 September in connection with disagreement over the results of the ballot-counting in the Moscow mayoral elections. The Main Directorate of the Interior Ministry for Moscow calls on citizens to refrain from participation in unauthorized rallies and other activities. All disturbances of the peace will be stopped in accordance with Russian law,” announced Andrei Galiakberov, head of the press service for the Main Directorate of the Interior Ministry for Moscow.

He also emphasized that at the present time, police officers are keeping the city under close surveillance and monitoring the situation with the proposed provocations in particular.

Anna Veduta, Navalny’s press secretary, Leonid Volkov, head of Navalny’s campaign staff and Vladimir Ashurkov, director of the Anti-Corruption Foundation categorically refused to comment.

Maksim Kats, deputy head of Navalny’s campaign headquarters, a municipal deputy of the Shchukina District said that he knew nothing about the office move.

“When I left the campaign office on 1 September, there was no talk about any move,” said Kats. He refused to make any further comments.

Navalny’s former lawyer, Violetta Volkova said she did not rule out the possibility of the eruption of some unauthorized rallies on election day, although she emphasized that Navalny did not need her services.

“Navalny has his own staff of lawyers; my assistance is not needed. But in the event that unauthorized rallies are held and their participants are arrested, I am prepared to provide legal aid to the participants,” emphasized Volkova.

Ivan Katanaev, leader of the Fratria fan club told Izvestiya that he did not know of any involvement of members of clubs in provocative actions against Navalny’s campaign office.

“If the insignia of Fratria will be used, or if there is even a hint that we are involved there, we will treat this as a provocation,” he insisted.

For his part, Aleksandr Shprygin, head of the All-Union Association of Fans (VOB) says that there are cases when representatives of fan clubs agree to take part in certain events for the purpose of earning money.

“Officially, not a single fan club takes part in these actions, this is even stated in their charters. But from the perspective of whether a client could come to agreement with someone to perform a certain job – then in theory that is possible in order to earn money. But it is not done officially,” claims Shprygin.
Even so, Shprygin explained that it was logical in its way to involve soccer fans in particular because among the youth movements, the soccer clubs have the most clear-cut and efficient structure.