As information concerning possible Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential Election comes to light, Russia is less than a month away from an election of their own. The race, in which numerous politicians run in opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin, has become highly controversial in the media, with fear the Kremlin is using corrupt methods to reelect Putin as the President, a position he has occupied since 1999.
A Russian opposition leader who planned to run for election, Alexei Navalny, was jailed for 20 days for violating laws concerning public rallies. His imprisonment meant he would miss out on attending a possibly vital political rally in St. Petersburg, the hometown and a key voting platform of Putin. Some believe rallying support for the opposition in St. Petersburg could play a pivotal role in removing Putin from power. Now, Russia’s central election agency has declared Navalny ineligible to run for President due to the prison sentence.
“Old man Putin is so scared of our meetings in the regions that he decided to make himself happy with a small gift for his jubilee,” Navalny said, inferring his sentencing was inaccurate and the direct work of the Kremlin.
In addition, numerous critics of Putin have been killed. While most were shot, others have been poisoned and one was beaten to death while in police custody. In Nov. of 2016, the husband of Lyubov Sobol, an opposition activist who investigates high-ranking members of the Kremlin as well as election meddling, was injected with a tranquilizer outside the couple’s apartment.
“I have an impression — I hope it’s only an impression — that the practice of killing political opponents has started spreading in Russia,” Gennady Gudkov, a former parliamentarian, and ex-security services officer said. “The organizers and those who ordered [the killing of Boris Nemtsov, an opposition activist] are, I’m deeply convinced, are the political leadership and rulers. Today the federal authorities are covering for them. They are not bringing anyone to responsibility and slowing the investigation.”
A ranking by Transparency International ranked Russia as 131 out of 176 in terms of corruption. Russia’s ranking was tied with Iran, Ukraine, Nepal and Kazakstan. Anti-corruption protests have increased in Russia over the last two years, however the Russian government has worked against the protests. In Russia, it is illegal to protest the government without the government’s approval, and a protest of 270 thousand people in Moscow in 2017 was written off by the media as being Russia Day celebrations.
“The Putin regime is built on corruption,” Navalny said. “According to official data, over 20 percent of [Russia’s] population lives below the poverty line. And people link the obvious. Why are we so poor? Because [the Russia elite] steal so much.”