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New and Noteworthy Russian Media Coverage of the Presidential Elections

by Lyubov Podgornaya

Russian Presidential Race: Who is Left?

12 January was the deadline for candidates to submit applications for the Russian presidential elections. The first stage is complete. Russian newspaper “Arguments and Facts”evaluates the results.

According to Ella Pamfilova, Head of Central Elections Committee, 70 people were interested in participating in the elections: 24 candidates were nominated by parties, 46 were nominated independently. However, some of the candidates changed their mind and some of them were rejected by the Central Elections Committee for various reasons.

For example, businessman Sergey Polonskiy, who was hiding from Russian law in Cambodia, was refused registration because of an insufficient number of supporters (less than 500 people). Alexey Navalnyi, representing the opposition, and journalist Oleg Lurye, were refused due to records of conviction for serious offences. Lurye was convicted for extortion and fraud in 2008. In 2014, Navalnyi got 3. 5 years on probation for embezzlement of funds of “Ive Roche Vostok” company and in 2017 he was convicted and sentenced to 5 years on probation for the“Kirovles” case.

Politicians believe that the Constitution of Russian Federation does not give equal rights for people with a conviction. On the 30 December, Navalnyi’s representatives tried to appeal against the decision of the Central Elections Committee in the High Court, however, the Court rejected the complaint.

Some of the prospective candidates rejected their presidential ambitions themselves. Blogger Vyacheslav Maltsev, who tried to arrange a seizure of the Russian government in November 2017, could not participate in the elections as the criminal proceedings were instituted against him and the opponent had to escape to France.

Among the individuals who submitted applications was Tristan Prisyagin, head of social movement “Children of the USSR”. Some of the main items in his program were the re-establishment of the Soviet Union, transitioning to the planned economy and handing over the power to the Communist party. His registration was refused due to the small number of supporters.
Laki Li, strip club owner and the head of the association of strip clubs of Russia, had his resignation rejected because he did not submit all the necessary documents.

By the first stage there were less than two dozen applicants left. 14 candidates endorsed by political parties and 2 independent applicants managed to open special accounts for election funds.

The first person who passed the registration procedure was Vladimir Zhirinovskiy, leader of Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. It is his sixth campaign.

On 12 January, a new candidate, Pavel Grudinin, was registered.

The current President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, is applying for the fourth time. Grigoriy Yavlinsliy, leader of “Yabloko (Apple)” party, is applying for the fourth time as well.

TV hostess, Kseniya Sobchak, announced her nomination by the non-parliamentary party “Civil Initiative” with a slogan “Against Everybody”.

The chairman of the “Growth Party,” Boris Titov, is focusing on the development of the economy and entrepreneurship. Anton Bakov, a billionaire and the leader of the “Monarchy Party” has suggested re-establishing the monarchy and leasing a few islands in the Pacific Ocean. The businessman evaluates this project at 350 million US dollars.

Now the candidates have to collect signatures from the public for their support. Candidates that nominated themselves, including Vladimir Putin, have to collect 300,000 signatures. Candidates endorsed by parties not represented in parliament need to collect only 100,000 signatures. The signatures have to be presented to the Central Election Committee by the 31 January.

*This article was published on Argumenty i Fakty, a government-owned Russian newspaper

Ksenia Sobchak: I will repeat it again – Putin is not my godfather

On air with Radio Komsomolskaya Pravda on 15 January, Russian presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak, answered questions from journalists Vladimir Vorsobin and Alexander Grishin, and from listeners.

Grishin: Kseniya, shall we dispel one myth straight away.

Sobchak: Let us try. There are so many myths that I am not sure we can dispel them all.

Grishin: Is Putin your godfather?

Sobchak: Putin is not my godfather. Vladimir Putin worked with my father for a long time when he was a mayor. But I was a little girl back then. I was 7-8 years old.

Vorsobin: You are standing as a candidate “against everybody” and you want to draw those who do not know for whom they want to vote. So in effect you appeal to people to waste their voices. It is a good thing for the Kremlin, but it is bad for Navalny who is calling for a boycott of the elections.

Sobchak: I view Alexei Navalny’s position as ineffective. And I would disagree with you regarding the voter turnout because the election results will be legitimate regardless how many people vote. The lower the voter turnout, the more votes there will be for Putin. If you take the position: “I am staying at home and will not turn up for elections,” mathematics should be applied. If you do not vote for a candidate the chance that your vote will be given to someone else increases. We are promised that these elections will be more transparent. I hope for this. They are interested in avoiding scandals.

Vosorbin: Do you remember the moment you decided to run for president? Where were you?

Sobchak: This moment has changed my life. I realised that I had reached the ceiling of my profession. I have been involved in political journalism for a long time and I felt that I have the strength to be involved in politics. About the moment of the decision – it happened in the summer during disputes and arguments with my friends and my husband: we thought about what we could do when it became obvious that Navalny will not be running in the elections.

Vorsobin: Our listener from Sevastopol writes: “What is the fault of the citizens of Crimea and Sevastopol who have chosen their future with Russia? Why is the so called world community not interested in our opinion?” I will add – the prosecutor’s office began checking your application about Crimea. Is this true?

Sobchak: Yes, it is on-going. But once again – I would like to repeat – I consider Crimea to be Ukrainian in accordance with international agreements. There is an international agreement which was signed by our country. We have violated this agreement. And all we can do now is to discuss how to get out of this situation while taking into consideration the opinions of Russian people who are currently living in Crimea and who wish to become a part of Russia. But we acted aggressively as a state and this is a fact.

Grishin: But is it ok that the state we made an agreement with does not exist anymore?

Sobchak: What do you mean by “does not exist”?

Grishin: There was a coup there.

Sobchak: So we are taking revenge that it has chosen Europe over Russia?! In my view a great power such Russia cannot behave like this in respect to its neighbours. If we want Ukraine to be a friendly state to us we had to build this policy for years. But we were too busy with other things. We were giving them benefits for gas, accumulating debts and only when we realised that Ukraine is on its way to Euro integration we suddenly decided: “How dare you! Now we have to take your territories back”.

Vorsovin: We had Yavlinsliy in this studio recently and he was telling us the same things. Now I see the statistics of the people who are ready to vote for you. 6% are ready to vote for Yavlinskiy and 0.7 % for you. Why does a presidential candidate need this so called “anti-Crimea” rhetoric?

Sobchak: These numbers are lies. We did research with focus groups where we invited people of various ages and income and we have very different numbers. And I do not have “anti-Crimea rhetoric.” I do want to protect the people of Crimea, including the Russian population of Crimea.

Grishin: To protect them from Russia, you mean?

Sobchak: No, from living in a territory where not a single international enterprise can have a base. You say that Crimea is a part of Russia. Could you answer the question then please: why there is not a single branch of Sberbank of Russia in Crimea? Why can’t people travel abroad? Or another example: we will have a football championship soon – why not a single game will take place in Crimea? Can I tell you why? Because no one will come to watch it. Because Sberbank, being an international bank, will be penalised and closed once it opens branches in Crimea. I do not wish such a life for Russians living in Crimea. I want them to be part of a great country.

Vorsobin: Let our listeners answer the questions.

Gennadiy from Leningrad oblast is asking: Hello, Ksenia. Regardless of the election result, would you be interested in pursuing a political career in the future? You are doing well. Secondly, how do you feel about the problems facing people with disabilities?

Sobchak: Thank you for your question, Gennadiy. Of course I will answer that I would like to undertake a career in politics. I do not think that it is possible for anyone except Putin to win these elections at this stage. But I believe that presidential elections are a great opportunity to show yourself, to announce your program and to build a system in the next six years which will make it possible to fight for power during the following elections.

Regarding your second question – I am proud that I am the only presidential candidate who has dedicated a large part of their election campaign to creating an inclusive society. This is the society we have to build in my view. We need to build a society where people with disabilities are included and where they will become equal members of society. I mean not on paper but in reality – special transport, special escalators, wheelchairs, special toilets and another level of disability benefits. At present it is not possible to live and take care of disabled person on the disability benefit of 1000 rubles. Only through tolerance and treating disabled people as equal, will we take a step forward toward a becoming a civilized society.

*This article was published on Komsomolskaya Pravda, a Russian daily newspaper

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