MOSCOW — As the most serious challenger during Vladimir Putin’s 18 years in power, Alexei Navalny has endured arrests, show trials and facefuls of green antiseptic that damaged his vision.
But in an interview Monday with The Associated Press, he said the biggest thing keeping him from becoming Russia’s next president is a political system that punishes him for rallying support and conspires to keep his face off the airwaves.
Putin’s approval rating is astronomical and he is widely expected to win another term with ease, but the fact that he won’t even say Navalny’s name suggests the anti-corruption crusader has struck a nerve. Navalny’s criminal record will probably keep him off the ballot — a sign, he says, of how much he frightens the political class.
Navalny, in his first interview since the start of the presidential campaign, said he would win it “if I am allowed to run and if I’m allowed to use major media.” And he said the Kremlin knows it.