Russian opposition leader joins Moscow mayor raceJuly 1, 2013 @ 7:04 am
MOSCOW (AP) - Russia's leading opposition figure launched his campaign against the Kremlin's handpicked choice for mayor of Moscow Monday despite being on trial in a case he says is politically motivated.
Anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny promised about 100 supporters in a hotel auditorium he would "destroy" President Vladimir Putin's allies and "make life better" in Russia's capital by winning snap elections to be held in early September.
"We're different from all those people in the mayor's office and the Kremlin who only have one practical program," Navalny said. "They want to steal from us here, transfer it to an offshore account, buy houses on (Moscow's "millionaire's row") Rublevka and in Spain, send their children to study in Switzerland, and then come on national TV and tell us about their new law to strengthen patriotism," he added.
But the launch was somewhat overshadowed by the air of doom hovering over the opposition as Putin's crackdown on dissent gathers pace.
After the event, Navalny took an overnight train to stand trial in the city of Kirov on embezzlement charges carrying a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. In the past year, Navalny has been charged in five other cases that he says were fabricated on Putin's orders.
Navalny's supporters say the trial is being micro-managed from Moscow and they expect a guilty verdict by the end of the month, though they hope for a suspended sentence.
Even if Navalny keeps his freedom, incumbent mayor and Kremlin candidate Sergei Sobyanin _ a native Siberian who had never lived in Moscow before becoming Putin's chief of staff in 2005 and who was appointed mayor by then-president Dmitry Medvedev in 2010 _ is expected to win handily.
Sobyanin, who has presided over a mild Westernization of Moscow, is supported by about 45 of Muscovites, according to a poll by the independent Levada Center last month. Navalny polled 3 percent, but may benefit from New Jersey Nets owner and former presidential candidate Mikhail Prokhorov's decision not to run.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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