This time no cheater in bathrobe, but the real Leonid Volkov in conversation with the House of Representatives. The closest employee of the imprisoned Russian opposition leader Aleksey Navalny had a message to the Foreign Affairs Committee: change must come from within, but Europe must also become tougher.
By video link from Washington, Volkov talked about the precarious situation of his boss, the opposition and his country. Later today, the movement of Navalny in a Moscow court is labeled as an extremist organization, Volkov told us. “Just like al-Qaeda.”
Under the new situation, employees can get up to 10 years in jail, lenders eight years. “Even though they only deposited 5 euros.” It has to do with the upcoming parliamentary elections in a few months, said Volkov. “Putin‘s party is not well in the polls and they are now sweeping the political playing field.”
The ‘joke‘ of the end of April also had to do with this, said the opposition employee. Then the Chamber Committee had a conversation with ‘Volkov‘, who later turned out to be a Russian comedian. The fake Volkov wore a bathrobe, had a piggy bank in his hand and made bizarre statements like: “I dance all day long, and young people see so that I’m a cool guest. That‘s why I’m being persecuted in Russia.”
This video of the conversation published the comedian:
According to the real Volkov, it was a “well-paid employee of the Russian government” and twelve successful fake conversations have already been conducted by the imitator. It shows, Volkov said, that the Russian government wants to divert attention from what it really is about. And that is, there is a need for change in Russia.
Volkov believes that this must come from the Russians themselves, but at the same time Europe can help with sanctions. “Putin doesn‘t care about words. Indeed, he sees it as a sign of weakness if there are no actions.”
Check out this explainer VanCCEit on 3 about how Putin deals with people who contradict him:
The price the world pays is great, says the opposition employee. “MH17, chemical weapons, oppression of the opposition, thousands of deaths in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine,” he enumerated. “All these crimes were condemned and they were deeply appalled. But according to Navalny’s employee, the Russian president is “money driven” and you have to hit him in his wallet.
Navalny has been leading the opposition in Russia for many years, but politically he has not yet achieved his goal, acknowledged Volkov. Nevertheless, the employee is confident in a successful outcome. “We do not know how Putin will go, but he will go. The clock is ticking in our favor.”
The 45-year-old opposition leader himself is stuck in a penal colony, where he has to sit for over 2.5 years for not complying with the conditions of the suspended sentence in 2014. Recently his health has not been well, including due to a hunger strike. At the moment, his situation is stable, says Volkov.