Putin, Allies Threatened With Jail as Navalny to Seek Presidency

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who faces three criminal cases, pledged to compete for the presidency and threatened to “do everything” to imprison Vladimir Putin and his billionaire allies if he seizes power.

“I want to become president,” Navalny said in an interview late yesterday on Rain Television, an independent Russian channel that broadcasts via the Internet and satellite networks. “I want to change life in the country, change the system of the country’s governance.”

Putin and his associates including businessman Arkady Rotenberg and Gunvor co-founder Gennady Timchenko would face time in jail if the Kremlin comes under the control of the opposition, Navalny said. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov declined to comment when reached by phone, as did Anton Kurevin and Andrei Borodin, spokesmen for Timchenko and Rotenberg, respectively. Navalny didn’t respond to a text message.

Navalny, 36, is raising the stakes in his campaign against Putin less than two weeks before he is slated to go on trial on charges of embezzlement. Catapulted to prominence by leading the biggest protests against Putin since the Russian leader came to power in 2000, his name recognition has grown to 37 percent last month, up from 6 percent in April 2011, according to a poll published by the Moscow-based Levada Center yesterday.

Among respondents familiar with Navalny, 14 percent would “definitely” or “probably” support his presidential run, according to the Levada report. The poll was conducted March 22-25 among 1,601 people and has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

‘Abominable, Thievish’

Putin, Timchenko and Rotenberg are all “links in the abominable, thievish” system of power that enriches itself at the expense of ordinary citizens, Navalny said.

Navalny and another person are accused of defrauding state timber company Kirovles of 16 million rubles ($506,000), the General Prosecutor’s office said last month. Two other criminal cases have been opened against Navalny, a lawyer who campaigns to expose fraud and waste at state companies and corruption by officials.

The activist faces as much as 10 years in prison in the three cases, according to the criminal code. He denies any wrongdoing and denounces his prosecution as politically motivated.

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