Police detain a man during a protest in Moscow, Aug. 10, 2019. Thousands rallied against the exclusion of some city council candidates from Moscow's upcoming election, turning out for one of the capital's biggest political protests in years.
WASHINGTON - VOA Russian Service's Danila Galperovich caught up with Leonid Volkov, fundraising chief for prominent Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, to discuss the recent street protests and mass arrests in Moscow.
The interview occurred just hours after Russian officials took the unprecedented step of freezing all financial assets associated with Navalny's anti-corruption watchdog, Foundation for Fighting Corruption (FBK), which was founded to spotlight the excessively lavish lifestyles of top government and Kremlin officials. In this file photo taken on March 31, 2017, leading associate of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Leonid Volkov smiles in a court room during a hearing in Moscow.
In this file photo taken on March 31, 2017, leading associate of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Leonid Volkov smiles in a court room during a hearing in Moscow.
Volkov is among the most prominent opposition figures in Moscow, and one of the only ones left to offer insights about prevailing turmoil on the ground in Russia, where his boss, Navalny, along with other opposition figures, have been jailed.
Danila Galperovich: The sudden court-ordered freeze of FBK finances and searches of your offices and staff domiciles are especially harsh actions. To what degree did you anticipate this?
Leonid Volkov: This is a completely predictable thing, and I had expected it. Our network of offices [created as part of Navalny's attempt to participate in the presidential election in Russia in 2018] is very annoying to them, and FBK is annoying them, and it was very expected that they would try to break it all down.
How? Despite the fact that we work as idealists there are nonetheless people, offices within the organization. I have approximately 150 employees throughout the entire structure, and so there are contracts, salaries, taxes, rental payments, etc... And any organization that employs 150 people—whether we're conducting anti-corruption investigations or packaging yogurt—cannot work without active financial accounts, without contracts, without a legal entity and so on.
We've long known that a documented organization is necessary risk, an inevitably vulnerable weak spot, and so we expected they would take a blow at it. We even prepared for it. Some of our preparations worked, so they weren't able to break it all.
But why did they choose to hit us now? I think that, previously, it hadn't been sanctioned by the first person [a reference to President Vladimir Putin], but then the court orders and searches were ultimately sanctioned by him under the guise of "mass riots."
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