Pro-Putin United Russia cleared for stroll to victory after purges

By Ignacio Ortega

Moscow, Sep 15 (EFE).- Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin has brushed aside its main political rivals, from the prominent critic Alexei Navalny to well-known communist and liberal candidates in a purge designed to clear the path for the governing United Russia party in upcoming legislative elections.

“I hope the West does not recognize these elections as legitimate,” Guennadi Gudkov, a former social democrat lawmaker in Russia, now living in exile in Bulgaria, told Efe.

“The vote is a crude imitation of a democratic process,” he added.

The Kremlin’s harassment campaign has in recent months involved the mass jailing of over 400 political prisoners, according to Memorial, a civil rights group, as well as judicial persecution and the forced exile of candidates, activists and journalists.

The Kremlin’s main objective was popular Putin critic Navalny, who narrowly survived an attempt on his life last year and is currently serving out the remaining two and half years of a previously suspended prison sentence, which he says is political.

“In reality, Navalny has been given a life sentence. I won’t leave prison during Putin’s political lifetime. He’ll only be freed if he agrees to leave forever,” he said.

Navalny’s team and network were targeted after his arrest, most of whom have left the country.

“More than 400,000 Russians emigrate each year. And they’re the most prepared and creative professionals. It’s a democratic catastrophe.”

Russian officials liquidated Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation after branding it an extremist organization and blocked a website linked to the opposition leader that promoted tactical voting.

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