Russian prosecutors have claimed that they have found evidence that Aleksey Navalny received money for his mayoral campaign from abroad, which is against the law and could lead to the opposition blogger’s removal from the race.
Navalny received money transfers from about 300 foreign donors, both individuals and legal entities, as well as anonymous transfers from 46 foreign countries, such as the USA, UK, Switzerland and Canada, reads the statement posted on the Russian Prosecutor General’s website on Monday. All donations were made using Russian internet e-commerce payment system Yandex.Money.
Prosecutors claim that they have established this information by studying IP addresses of the senders.
All findings have already been forwarded to the Interior Ministry that would decide if a criminal case should be instigated into the offence.
Moscow City Law does not allow either foreign sponsorship of the mayoral campaign or anonymous contributions. Violation of the regulation could lead to Navalny’s removal from the race. The opposition blogger ranks second in latest popularity ratings with 9 percent of Moscow voters promising to support him. However, he is still way behind Sergey Sobyanin – the acting mayor and the representative of parliamentary majority party United Russia, who claims support of 55 percent of the voters.
The prosecutors launched an investigation after a complaint filed by Vladimir Zhirinovsky - the head of the nationalist opposition party LDPR – who wanted to check both the sources of Navalny’s funding and also the amounts contributed by every donor as the Russian law also sets maximum total donation at 1 million rubles for a private person and 6 million rubles for a legal entity.
Navalny has previously reported that his team had collected over 20 million rubles (over $600,000) through the Yandex.Money fundraising.
Navalny himself wrote in his blog that all the prosecutors’
claims were “fiction” and that all transfers to his
elections account are checked by the Moscow Electoral Commission
and either recognized as legal or returned.
The head of Navalny’s elections headquarters, Leonid Volkov, has told the ITAR-TASS news agency that there were no foreigners among Navalny’s sponsors. He also wrote an ironic tweet claiming that “they” felt really uneasy as people were sending money to Navalny on their own initiative while “they” knew very well that they could not hope to get anything at all from anyone.
Как их плющит от того, что тысячи людей по своей воле отправляют деньги на предвыборную кампанию. Знают, что им никто никогда ни копейки.— Leonid Volkov (@leonidvolkov) August 12, 2013
Navalny’s close ally Vladimir Ashurkov told the RIA Novosti news agency that the fundraising campaign consisted of two stages – a few chosen supporters transferred their own means to the elections sponsorship account and afterwards these supporters collect a large number of small donations from internet users. Formally, this scheme does not allow for foreign sponsorship, Ashurkov stressed.
It should be noted that Yandex.Money only works with Russian rubles. The Yandex press service has told reporters that their company had never received any enquiries from prosecutors. It also added that the IP addresses recorded by the system only show the users’ location at the moment of connection, not their citizenship and that the system only works with physical persons.
The Moscow mayoral elections are scheduled on September 8. There are six candidates in the race, with current acting Mayor Sergey Sobyanin leading in the opinion polls by a huge margin.