Released Russian Activist Udaltsov Vows To Continue Protests, Won’t Back Navalny
(Article ©2017 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – Aug. 10, 2017 – also appeared at rferl.org/a/putin-calls-us-senator-mccain-old-world-but-admires-his-patriotism/28537171.html)
Sergei Udaltsov, a prominent Russian opposition activist who was released on August 8 after nearly five years in custody, has vowed to revive his dormant Levy Front (Left Front) movement and hold new protests.
But at a news conference in Moscow on August 10, Udaltsov said that some opponents of President Vladimir Putin are too pro-Western and that he would not support Aleksei Navalny, who is seeking to run for president in March.
“That will never do — to fully follow some Western demands; to return Crimea, for instance,” Udaltsov said, referring to the Ukrainian peninsula that Russia occupied and seized in 2014. “I love my country and I am a patriot, although I am against the current government.”
He added that he supported the Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, saying that they “are fighting for their right to speak and think in Russian.”
More than 10,000 people have been killed since April 2014 in the war between Kyiv’s forces and the separatists, who hold parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Udaltsov was convicted of organizing “mass disorder” over a May 2012 protest on Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square that erupted into violence.
Demonstrators and police blame each other for the violence, which led to the prosecution of dozens of protesters on charges rights activists say were trumped up.
As he has before, Udaltsov accused the authorities of responsibility for the clashes, but he alleged that some opposition leaders might have cooperated with the authorities to incite the violence. He did not provide evidence to support that claim.
More than 400 people were detained in connection with the Bolotnaya protest, part of a series of demonstrations that drew Russians angry over evidence of widespread fraud in December 2011 parliamentary elections and dismayed by Putin’s return to the presidency after four years as prime minister.
More than 30 people were prosecuted in what came to be known as the Bolotnaya Case, and more than 20 were sentenced to prison or served time in pretrial custody.
Udaltsov, 40, said that he continued to oppose Putin but will not back Navalny’s bid for the presidency. He said leftist opposition groups should propose a single candidate.
Putin has said he has not decided whether to seek a fourth Kremlin term, but he is widely expected to run and win.
Russian election authorities have said that Navalny will be barred from the ballot because of a financial-crimes conviction that he says was engineered by the Kremlin to punish him for his opposition activity and keep him out of electoral politics.
With reporting by Merhat Sharipzhan