Supporters of opposition blogger and Moscow mayoral candidate Aleksey Navalny plan provocations to spark unrest and riots shortly before the leadership poll in the Russian capital, a popular daily reports quoting sources in the security services.
The staged incidents could be anything from artificial traffic jams to smoke attacks in the Moscow Metro, the report reads. In addition, a group of hired football hooligans would attack Navalny’s promotional teams, or even his electoral headquarters, pretending to be supporters of the incumbent, acting Mayor Sergey Sobyanin, reads the report by Izvestia that referred to “an informed source in the law-enforcement bodies.”
Navalny himself tweeted "Izvestia' 'newspaper' hires drug addicts" on Tuesday, presumably reacting to the article.
With the Moscow mayoral elections scheduled for September 8, the peak of the staged disturbances will surely take place on September 4, the unnamed sources told Izvestia. The operation, codenamed ‘Big Bang – Moving Office’ will be carried out by the members of the ‘Fratria’ group, which unites the supporters of the Spartak Moscow Football Club.
The main events will allegedly occur at a press briefing scheduled for 5:30pm MSK (13:30 GMT). Security agents expect a group of hooligans with baseball bats to rush into the headquarters and start destroying computers and furniture. The plan also includes bodily harm to the attending reporters and volunteers who work for Navalny’s campaign, the report reads.
The main attack is expected to take place amid the backdrop of a series of minor conflicts such as brawls with Navalny’s promotional staff at their mobile stations. But more serious and dangerous provocations are also possible, including artificially creating traffic jams and even setting off a smoke attack in the Moscow Metro in order to accuse the authorities of an inability to tackle the transport crisis.
But all these stunts will be merely preparation for the unrest scheduled for September 9. After the poll is over and its results – if, as predicted, go in favor of Sobyanin - are made public, Navalny’s supporters will declare them invalid and take to the streets trying to get near the Kremlin, the newspaper’s source claims. The plan again is to start the violence with the help of football hooligans, this time supporters of Dynamo Moscow FC.
Moscow City Police said in official comments that they were aware of the fact that one of the mayoral candidates is preparing protests against the election results even without waiting for these results and gathering supporters from around the country who would take part in rallies. Moscow police spokesman Andrey Galiakberov called upon citizens not to take part in unsanctioned gatherings and warned that all violations will be dealt with in accordance with the law.
Russian authorities have recently tightened the law on public rallies, introducing heavy fines for ordinary participants and measures that ban organizers from public politics for a period of time.
Aleksey Navalny’s spokesperson and head of elections HQ declined to comment.
All other parties in the story, such as leaders of the football supporters’ clubs and medium-level volunteers in election campaigns also said they knew nothing about the plans revealed by Izvestia.
The report about Team Navalny’s ominous plans come on the last day of an election campaign that has already been marred by tit-for-tat accusations and controversy. Most recently, pro-Sobyanin journalists and bloggers accused Navalny’s supporters of desecrating monuments by plastering them with propaganda posters.
The opposition leader replied with a blog post in which he said that the monument incident was created by Sobyanin’s crew from start to finish. He wrote that the incumbent’s election team had put the posters on monuments, taken pictures and then used hired bloggers to express outrage in social networks.
In addition, Navalny filed an official complaint to the city electoral commission claiming that Sobyanin had illegally accessed the personal data of his voters as he was sending personal letters to pensioners with requests of support.
Navalny also used his trademark anti-corruption blog to combat his chief rival. In mid-August he stated that Sobyanin’s apartment, granted to him by the Presidential Administration, had been illegally handed over to the acting mayor’s daughter. He also targeted Sobyanin’s other daughter for owning a company that sold exceptionally expensive furniture, alleging that the goods were supplied to state structures via corruption schemes.
Sobyanin has dismissed all the accusations and officials have said that no violations were found in either case.
In a Tuesday interview with business daily Vedomosti, Navalny said that he and his allies expected the authorities to rig the polls in Sobyanin’s favor. The methods could range from casting ballots for those who choose not to take part in the elections to setting up ‘phantom polling stations’ that would not allow independent monitors in.
According to the latest public opinion poll conducted by the VTSIOM sociological center, Sergey Sobyanin should win the elections in the first round with about 62 percent of votes and Aleksey Navalny will be second with about 16 percent.
Communist Party candidate Ivan Melnikov will garner about 9 percent of votes and the other three candidates (who represent the Fair Russia, LDPR and Yabloko parties) will get between 3 and 5 percent of votes each. The estimated margin of error is 4 percent.
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