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Russia’s environmental activist known not only for her passionate statements opposing the construction of a motorway through Khimki forest near Moscow, but also for campaigning against the current authorities announced her intention to run for mayor of Khimki, a city northwest of Moscow.
Yevgeniya Chirikova was supported by leaders of the off-parliamentary opposition, and now it is the turn for the parliamentary opposition to have its say.
Experts believe that in case of her victory, that is, to tell the truth, far from being predetermined, this will be a precedent that can inspire hesitant opponents of the authorities.
Chirikova has acquired a national reputation soon after she led a spontaneous movement of Khimki residents in the battle against the construction of a toll highway between Moscow and St. Petersburg through Khimki forest. She “spoiled blood” not only of the local, but also federal authorities. Recently Chirikova became one of the activists of Moscow’s civil protests.
On Sunday at a meeting with civil activists in Khimki forest Yevgeniya Chirikova made public her intention to run for mayor. The action brought together several dozens of the movement’s activists as well as Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov, famous anti-corruption campaigner and blogger Alexei Navalny and parliamentarian from A Just Russia Dmitry Gudkov.
In her speech Chirikova promised nothing less than the beginning of Russia’s revival after her election to the post. Moreover, she promised to further fight to preserve the forest outside Moscow and cancel the construction of the Moscow-St. Petersburg highway. In case of her election as mayor the politician plans to turn Khimki into a research centre and “the city for intellectuals.”
The Khimki mayor seat became vacant last week, when former Khimki mayor Vladimir Strelchenko, against whom the opposition laid not a few claims, resigned. At first, Chirikova refused to engage in the election race fearing not to cope with mayor duties, but later yielded to persuasion.
In an interview with the Izvestiya daily she said two factors made her change her decision. “First, I received a fantastic number of calls and a real Twitter attack from people with the words of support. Second, I decided by my personal example to show Russians that it is high time for not indifferent people to take power in their hands.”
In 2009 Yevgeniya Chirikova ran for mayor of Khimki getting support of 15 percent of voters. The mayor elections will take place on the single voting day on October 14.
The environmental activist has already gained support of influential opposition leaders and organizations.
“The people’s candidate has already been nominated. This is Chirikova,” Alexei Navalny wrote in his microblog. “Now we should help her.”
Dmitry Gudkov said he had already written a Twitter message to the leader of A Just Russia, Sergei Mironov, requesting the party’s support for Yevgeniya.
“But now our main task is not to break up our forces into several fronts and to vote for the single opposition candidate,” Udaltsov said adding he would do his utmost to persuade the Communist Party and other parties to vote for Chirikova.
Despite its previous experience of cooperation with Chirikova Russia’s liberal party Yabloko nominated to this post its own candidate – the leader of the party’s Khimki office, Igor Belousov. During the mayor election of 2009 he received support of 22 percent of voters, slightly more than Chirikova. However, since then she became even more famous.
Yabloko leader Sergei Mitrokhin announced that his party still had no intention to recall its candidate. But the party did not rule out an opportunity to sit at the negotiating table and support a stronger nominee.
Igor Belousov said he could not recall his candidacy as it was not yet officially nominated. “I think we will sit at the negotiating table,” the leader of Yabloko’s Khimki office said. “The main thing - we want people to live well. We do not want war, we want peace and I think we will agree,” he added noting that he knew Yevgeniya Chirikova personally and welcomed her nomination.
In reply to the question on possible participation of an opposition candidate in the mayor elections Moscow region governor Sergei Shoigu noted that his main task is to hold fair elections. “People badly miss a fair election campaign,” he said adding that the main criterion for him is not belonging to this or that party, but professional skills.
Today Yevgeniya Chirikova’s chances are “modest” – maximum 20-25 percent, the Novye Izvestiya cited Yevgeny Minchenko, director of the International Institute of Political Analysis, as saying.
“Chirikova is the most comprehensible and recognizable candidate irrespective of her pluses and minuses,” Mikhail Vinogradov, who heads the St. Petersburg Policy Fund, told the Moskovsky Komsomolets. “But now it is very difficult to forecast the election results, everything will depend on the quality of the election campaign and local residents’ mood in this period.”
Famous political scientist Stanislav Belkovsky wrote in a newspaper back on Friday before Chirikova made public her intention that the opposition had a good chance – to nominate Yevgeniya Chirikova as a candidate for mayor.
“For two years of the battle she got brilliant skills not only to collect arguments, write letters and go unarmed against earthmovers, but also to organize collective actions,” the expert said. “If Chirikova is jointly supported by both parliamentary (the Communist Party, A Just Russia) and off-parliamentary opposition, she will have very good chances to win.”
He emphasized that this victory would be important. “This victory would be a precedent that can be cited as an example all over Russia to inspire all those hesitant and not indifferent.”
MOSCOW, August 20