In an interview with The New York Times, the Russian opposition chief Aleksei A. Navalny discusses life in Penal Colony No. 2 in Pokrov, Russia, the place he’s being held; President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia; worldwide sanctions imposed on Russia; the upcoming elections for the Duma, Russia’s decrease home of Parliament; his poisoning with the chemical weapon Novichok; being tailed by the Federal Security Service, or the F.S.B., the successor company to the Okay.G.B.; and a bunch of different points. These excerpts have been edited for house and readability.
How have you ever been handled in jail?
Before, my zone was well-known for fearsome beatings of inmates. Now, no person is overwhelmed, or not less than I haven’t heard about it. But as they are saying, “At first you work for your reputation, and then your reputation works for you.” And that’s true of this jail. People who’ve the poor fortune of being advised they may serve in Pokrov arrive noticeably subdued and afraid. The zone specializes in psychological violence.
This is much and away extra refined. They gained’t beat you — fairly the alternative, with continuous provocation, they may put you in a place the place it’s important to beat up someone else, hit someone, threaten someone. And then the deed is completed — there are video cameras in all places, and the administration with nice pleasure will open a brand new felony case in opposition to you on fees of assault, including a couple of years to your sentence. To not succumb to provocation, that is a very powerful factor to study right here.
The first few months, I used to be actually good at this, and now issues grew to become calmer. I simply determined this might grow to be a wonderful Christian observe. We regularly speak about loving thine enemy, however actually, simply attempt to perceive and forgive folks you actually couldn’t stand in any respect just a bit whereas in the past. But I’m making an attempt.
What is the probability you may be killed in jail?
In interviews, at factors like this, there’s normally a comment in parentheses (laughter). You can not see me proper now, however I guarantee you, I’m laughing.
For a few years, I used to be pressured to make excuses in response to questions like: “Why haven’t you been killed yet?” and “Why haven’t you been jailed?” Now that I’ve each these containers checked (the one about homicide with a facet be aware: “Well, almost”), I’m requested to gauge the chance of my very own dying whereas in jail.
Well, the reply, clearly, might be taken from a joke: 50 %. I’ll both be killed or not be killed.
Let’s not overlook that we clearly should take care of an individual who has misplaced his thoughts, Putin. A pathological liar with megalomania and persecutory delusion. Twenty-two years in energy would do this to anybody, and what we’re witnessing is a basic scenario of a half-mad czar.
As we now know, F.S.B. killers began following me on my journeys across the nation actually the day after I made public my plans to run for president. Was this a intelligent transfer? Seriously, to order your safety providers to kill your political opponent with a chemical weapon? A less-than-stellar thought. But Putin did that as a result of he’s possessed by his personal fears and concepts.
What do you consider Western insurance policies of placing sanctions on Russia for its repression of the opposition?
There’s no want to use sanctions on Russia. Sanctions, far harsher than now, needs to be utilized on those that rob Russia, make her folks poorer and deprive them of a future. This needs to be known as a “packet of sanctions in support of the Russian people, against corruption, lies and tyranny.”
Let’s say this clearly: For now, all sanctions have been tailor-made to keep away from nearly all important contributors in Putin’s gangster gang. Do you need proof? Name one actual evildoer who suffered. The airplanes, the yachts, the billions in Western banks — all the things is in its place.
The leaders of the West, and in the primary place President Biden, ought to present actual decisiveness in the battle in opposition to corruption. In the primary place, cease calling Putin’s oligarchs businessmen. Any Putin bandit or Mafiosi calling himself a “businessman” is sort of instantly seen as “almost one of our guys,” an individual you are able to do enterprise with.
It’s fascinating that legislatures perceive this. Declarations of the leaders and contributors of the anti-corruption caucus, just lately shaped in the U.S. Congress, are actually on level. Deputies of the European Parliament are agency in putting sanctions on oligarchs. But the manager branches on each side of the ocean battle with a military of legal professionals, lobbyists, and bankers preventing for the best of householders of soiled and bloody cash to stay unpunished.
This is why I name for private focusing on of oligarchs and evildoers. Such actions of the West will likely be totally supported by Russian society and be trigger for jubilation. In the eyes of an odd particular person, particularly these measures will present that the West is just not hypocritical — they don’t seem to be all simply the identical — and at last someone has stood up for the odd particular person’s pursuits.
Does the specter of further Western sanctions assist shield you in jail?
It’s exhausting to say. On the one hand, with actual incomes of the inhabitants already falling for seven years in a row, Putin is sincerely nervous that new sectoral sanctions will crash Russia’s economic system. On the opposite hand, the angle “I don’t give in to pressure” has way back become his trademark, irrational battle. If they demand one thing from me, I’ll do the alternative, even when to the detriment of my very own pursuits. As they are saying in Russia, “I’ll get frostbite on my ears to spite my mom.”
National elections are coming subsequent month. Can you beat Putin? Is political change doable by the Russian electoral system, or will it should await Mr. Putin’s dying or retirement?
The reply to the query — “Can you beat Putin?” — we’re receiving proper now. The Duma marketing campaign is underway, and the one information is about banning candidates.
First, they took out everyone who labored in our group, declaring them extremist. Then, everyone who supported us in any means. Then, even “systemic opposition,” who may win with our help. And now they’re banning mediocre candidates, fearful that our “smart voting” (the voting technique the place we name on voters for consolidated help for the second-strongest candidate on the poll, who has essentially the most possibilities of beating the federal government candidate) will convey even them to victory.
So, I reply firmly and with out a drop of doubt: Yes. If we may take part in elections, even with out cash or info assets, we might defeat Putin’s celebration, United Russia, proper now. At the federal and regional elections. In massive cities we wouldn’t even should strive very exhausting.
We are providing folks another proper now. Our program is healthier, and now we have a imaginative and prescient for the way forward for Russia whereas Putin doesn’t.
Putin is just not everlasting, bodily or politically. What is necessary is that this: The Putin regime is an historic accident, not an inevitability. It was the selection of the corrupt Yeltsin household. Sooner or later, this error will likely be fastened and Russia will transfer on to a democratic, European path of growth. Simply as a result of that’s what the folks need.
Should Russians vote in the parliamentary election subsequent month?
Yes, we name for participation in elections even when they more and more appear to be a joke. Three-day voting, excluding candidates, banishing observers. We name on all to take part for one purpose: Our technique of “smart voting” works even in these circumstances.
Not in all places — in elements of the nation the place outcomes are simply rewritten, nothing works. But it definitely works in massive cities. We examined the technique for a number of years, in Moscow, in St. Petersburg, in Siberian cities. It was a hit in all places. For the primary time in 20 years, we will defeat pro-government candidates in single-mandate districts. Yes, now we’re not speaking about electing good candidates — all the great ones are banned — however we will elect not these the Kremlin deliberate on. The key phrase is “elect” — the voters, not Putin, make the candidates members of Parliament.
The strategy diminishes the Putin majority, cuts into the monopoly of United Russia and makes the political system extra advanced.
And, most significantly, due to “smart voting” the need of the residents once more beneficial properties worth.
You have constructed your motion to an awesome extent on preventing corruption. Has jail modified your political beliefs?
The battle in opposition to corruption is our specialty. I nonetheless think about corruption a principal downside of Russia, corroding the nation, depriving folks of a future and hindering any reform. It is the premise of the present authorities.
My nation may proper now grow to be a wealthy, profitable state transferring alongside the European path of growth. We are particular, like all nation, however we’re Europe. We are the West. The fundamental political construction needs to be parliamentary democracy, and honest elections, impartial courts and full freedom for the media needs to be sacred ideas in the brand new Russia.
The principal aim of the brand new authorities needs to be elevating incomes of the folks. Russians are too poor. These are poor residents of a wealthy nation.
Poverty in explicit worries Russians greater than something. Here in jail, I used to be satisfied of this once more. My jail is simply 100 kilometers from Moscow, however nonetheless the sensation hangs in the air: penury, the absence of a future. Poor inmates share one cigarette between two of them. Poor jail workers with depressing salaries. Nurses in the jail hospital have such low salaries they’re embarrassed to talk of them.
And most necessary — a type of melancholy and really clear understanding nothing will change. An understanding that, sadly, leads to not protest or demand for a greater life, however indifference and obedience. But expertise reveals obedience can simply shift to anger.
New international challenges are telling us that Russia ought to grow to be a frontrunner in the battle in opposition to local weather change. It is our historic mission to protect the Siberian forests and recent water, necessary for survival of the entire planet.
We dwell in a novel time. Serious native and regional conflicts exist, however not world warfare. We don’t have any enemies in search of such a warfare. We reap implausible earnings from uncooked supplies exports. We should seize this opportunity, so the historical past of the primary half of the 21st century turns into a interval of progress and prosperity for the residents of Russia, and never years of degradation and distress, as now.
Translated by Oleg Matsnev and Andrew E. Kramer.