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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
July 15, 2016

Publication: Analysis
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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russian Election Round-up: Parnas List Accepted; Party of Pensioners Forced to Remove Candidates
The Russian parliamentary elections will take place September 18, 2016. While President Vladimir Putin has claimed that they will be democratic and competitive, already the failure to register the Party of Progress founded by anti-corruption campaigner Alexey Navalny, pressure placed on others such as the Party of Pensioners for Justice to remove their candidates; the harassment and beatings of some independent candidates, and the further suppression of the media as well as pollsters and observers call into question just how free and fair the ballot can be.

The main opposition coalition of liberal parties has fallen apart with the stress of persecution and arguments about how to respond to it, and as we report this week, the Parnas party, the acronym for People's Party of Freedom and Republican Party of Russia) has been beset with divisions over first to set-aside of the top position to Mikhail Kasyanov, co-chair of the party, then the candidacy of Vyacheslav Maltsev, a controversial populist candidate known for anti-semitic remarks elected to the second position on the party list.

The third slot went to Prof. Andrei Zubov with considerably less votes -- but all the candidates have little chance of attracting enough votes to cross the 5% threshold, and it would be a miracle if any of them gained a seat through the single-mandate elections in districts.

As Paul Goble of Windows of Eurasia writes, the field is crowded: according to Russian officials, candidates from 21 different parties are competing in the current Duma elections. "Too much" democracy can be one way of ensuring there isn't enough. Moscow analysts say only three parties are likely to have deputies in the new parliament, one less than at the present time; the Party of Pensioners may have a chance.

o Party of Pensioners Removes 5 Top Candidates from List Reportedly Under Kremlin Pressure

The Party of Pensioners for Justice was rumored last week to be planning to expel former governors Mikhail Yurevich, Vladimir Butov and Yevgeny Mikhailov said to be "disliked by the presidential administration," Perebezhchik reports.

Today RIA Novosti reported that in the end, five were expelled; in addition to Yuryevich, Butov and Mikhailov, Oleg Savchenko and ex-mayor of Kaliningrad, Yury Savenko were also removed also other reports dispute the removal of Savchenko. 

RBC reported that despite party procedures that require only conventions to remove candidates, the expulsion was made by the presidium.

Yevgeny Artyukh, chairman of the party, commented:

"Today the party is undergoing an exam: either we are a real political force which forms a competitive list or we are a spoiler which succumbing to some pressure, refines its lists."

Artyukh told Kommersant that he did receive phone calls from unknown persons telling him to take people off the list, but he couldn't be sure they weren't "pranksters," and party leaders were just removing them "out of fear," he said. 

A source told RBC that the party's reason for not publicizing its lists was precisely to avoid pressure. Now it will depend on whether the CEC approves the list or heeds Artyukh's call to re-convene a party convention; he has filed a dissension with the CEC urging it to suspend the authority of the party's presidium.

Yuryevich, whose wealth is estimated at $85 million and who owned a number of newspapers and radio stations, has had his political career overshadowed by his connection to Vladimir Golovlyov, murdered in 2002.

Last week reported that he had almost no chance of being elected, after himself refusing to run in the United Russia primaries, because local law-enforcerment belived there was good reason for his resignation due to lost of confidence after his resignation and as a source told RBC, due to an investigation of a beating.

o Yabloko Party Releases List of Candidates Topped by Yavlinsky, Slabunova, Ryzhkov

The Yabloko Party, a long-time opposition party formerly headed by Grigory Yavlinsky and now by Emiliya Slabunova, have released their federal list of candidates. At the top is Yavlinsky and Slabunova followed by Vladimir Ryzhkov, Lev Shlosberg, Sergei Mitrokhin, Mark Gelikman, Nikolai Rybakov, Galina Shirshina, Aleksandr Gnezdilov and Dmitry Gudkov. Ryzhkov and Gudkov were "defectors" from Parnas and the Alliance of Greens and Social Democrats, respectively.

Shlosberg, a former Pskov regional legislator, is well-known as the politician who first publicized the fact that the Pskov Airborne Troops were missing from their barracks and had been sent to Simferopol. He opposed the annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbass, and reported on the first combat deaths of Russian soldiers -- which led to his severe beating and hospitalization and ultimately his stripping of his mandate.

In addition to the 10 at the top of the federal list and others in that list, there were 297 candidates running in 64 regions on the single-mandate list. Perebezhchik also surmised that Yabloko might now reach the 3%.

o CEC Approves Parnas List and Participation in Elections

The Central Elections Commission has approved the federal party list of Parnas as well as its list of candidates for the single-mandate districts, the party reported on its web site. The party has also been granted permission to open up an election bank account and campaign fund.

o Sergei Krivov, Parnas Member and Bolotnaya Prisoner of Conscience Released from Labor Camp

Sergei Krivov, a member of the Moscow section of Parnas was released from labor colony three months early. He was sentenced to 4 years in 2014 for participation in the May 2012 Bolotnaya Demonstrations and accused of "incitement of mass disorders" and "use of force against police," charges he denied. (Time in pre-trial detention is taken off the sentence as well).

o PACE Not Invited to Observe Russian Elections

The Central Elections Commission has made agreements with 27 countries and 4 specialized monitoring organizations to observe the fall elections, Perebezhchik reports.

But the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is not among them -- Russia was suspended from that body. The OSCE's Officie for Democracy and Human Rights is invited, along with the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Association of Election Organizations of Arab Countries.

Dmitry Abzalov, president of the Center for Strategic Communications thinks the more observers, the most legitimate the elections. But if they are from groups such as the CIS with a long history of rubber-stamping the Kremlin's choices and parties of power, they aren't credible.

o Few Governors' Elections to Be Contested

The elections to governorships in nine regions will also take place on September 18 on the Unified Election Day. Of these, 7 will be direct elections and in Kabardino-Balkaria and Northern Ossetia in the North Caucasus, the governors will be chosen by the local parliaments. The Communist Party has announced 6 candidates already from the 9 they intend to field; Just Russia has only announced 2.

Mikhail Vinogradov of the St. Petersburg Politics Foundation believes the parliamentary opposition has a chance to win in only three regions -- Trans-Baikal, a very depressed area; Komi, where after the arrest of the former governor, Vyacheslav Gayzer, the establishment is not in the best position, and in Northern Ossetia were the non-parliamentary opposition traditionally has strong positions.

Konstantin Kalachev of the Political Experts Group disagrees, and says there will only be contests in Tver and Ulyanovsk regions, Izvestiya reports.

In Tver, disputes between Igor Ruden, the incumbent and the local political elites have created an opening, and in Ulyanovsk, acting governor Sergei Morozov's troubles relations with the Kremlin have also created an opportunity. In Tula, Aleksei Dyumin, the current governor who has enjoyed authority, has "serious electoral support," he said. Staying above the political fray and nominating himself as an independent more concerned with regional intrests than party conflicts, has worked in Dyumin's favor, says Kalachev.

o Zhuravlyov to Head Motherland Party List; Potapov Challenged Due to Past Weapons Conviction

Aleksei Zhuravlyov, currently in the United Russia parliamentary faction, will head the list for the Rodina (Motherland) party.

Others in the party list include Mikhail Khazin, economist; Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of Natsional'naya oborona [National Defense]; Interior Ministry veteran Aleksei Novgorodov, television host Yevgeny Kolesov. Some defectors from the ill-named Liberal Democratic Party of Russia headed by Vladimir Zhirinovsky have come over to Rodina. Rodina's convention also had its scandals like the liberal opposition: one nominee is Aleksandr Potapov, a former regional deputy who was tried for possessing guns and ammunition in the past; another Rodina member, Natalya Latyshevskaya, head of the Volgograd branch has led a campaign to have him expelled from the list.

The fall elections have already been branded as this year's "most boring," and public apathy could affect turnout. In Kostroma, some voters aren't taking the elections seriously.

Translation: A resident of Kostroma is trying to nominate her cat Begemot [Hippo] to the elections to the State Duma.

Translation: for the Russian common man, other people's elections and other people's coup d'etats are substitution therapy for the deficit of the former and latter at home.

There's no question that ethnic hatred and anti-semitism will increase with the elections -- which may explain why some demonstrative cases against extremists are already underway.

Translation: The already openly ruling United Russia bourgeois Russia mocks the people! Down with teh elections of the ruling Jewish bourgeoisie of Russia!

The sign says "There's No Money, But Hang On!" a widely-quoted comment from Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev during a visit to Ukraine, intertwined with the letters for United Russia. 

Law-enforcers made three more arrests of Misanthropic Division activists in Moscow, Rostov-on-Don, and Arkhangelsk.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
‘What Would Boris Do?” Opposition Struggles with In-Fighting on Eve of September Elections

In April, we asked if the Russian opposition -- a fraction of the size it was in 2011 when protests against President Vladimir Putin’s fraudulent rise to power were at their heyday -- would even make it to the September parliamentary elections. Did it even matter whether the Russian opposition, fragmented and stretched across political positions from the left to right stayed united? Since then, we’ve seen only more repression of the remaining groups opposing the Putin regime, with hacking of phones and web sites, constant detentions, further political trials, and continued pressure.

A recent article in The Guardian spoke of opposition infighting, covering the disagreements about tactics which really boiled down to one scandal involving Mikhail Kasyanov, former finance minister in the Putin government who leads the Parnas party (the name of which is an acronym of a merger of two past parties, the People’s Freedom Party and the Republican Party of Russia). Using clandestine film footage, the state television NTV, which has long cooperated with the Kremlin’s intelligence services to stalk and harass the opposition, aired a show called “A Day in the Life of Kasyanov,” revealing that he had an extramarital affair with another Parnas leader, Natalya Pelevina. Pelevina has also been targeted for searches and interrogation in an investigation of her use of foreign grants to defend the Bolotnaya Square anti-Putin rally of May 2012. This scandal prompted calls within Kasyanov’s own party for his resignation and divisions about whether to continue his campaign, which then led to a split in the Democratic Coalition over whether Kasyanov should stay at the top of the party’s list or submit himself to the judgement of primaries to see if he could keep the slot. He refused.

Then in the last week, Russian social media has avidly discussed further scandals at Parnas surrounding the nomination of Saratov blogger Vyacheslav Maltsev, a former policeman and populist regional deputy who has swung back and forth between United Russia and both left and right opposition parties and has allegedly blogged in the past about “Jews and Masons”.

The disarray has left some asking “What would Boris do?” – Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader and co-chairman of Parnas who was assassinated in February 2015, and whose alleged murderers are to go on trial July 25.

Lawyer Vadim Prokhorov, attorney for the Nemtsov family, was one of those who urged people to think “what Boris would have done,” and applied the scientific approach for which Nemtsov, a physicist, was known. He noted that the Parnas party’s federal council had lacked only one vote to expel Maltsev. He pointed out that the official Central Elections Commission had not recognized their primaries anyway so it's as if they hadn't existed. Furthermore, many in the party had wanted the results declared invalid after the party’s site was hacked and personal data exposed and had finally decided only to “take them into account.”

While these arguments seemed petty or arcane, giving the ostensible need to hold together in the face of Putinism, as we pointed out earlier, there’s an issue of principle that even Western leaders struggle with and Western nations are divided about: how do you behave in the face of Putin’s aggression and his ample use of provocations against people, turning their weaknesses or flaws against them? Do you accommodate and cave to his sabotage or do you fight it, perhaps only to lose?

The subsequent rows in Parnas over controversial deputy and video blogger Maltsev revolve around a matter of principle: given the difficulties already faced by opposition parties, should they grab on to populist candidates with dubious pasts as an engine for success at the polls? American and British party leaders face no less of a quandary.

And does it matter, anyway? At this point, the Russian opposition is faced barely with the prospect of a “show” in a “win, place, or show” formula in this race. No party will reach the 5% threshold required to get into parliament and only one or two may reach the 3% threshold required to go on getting federal funding and at least having some tangential role in politics. Opposition parties like the Party of Progress of Alexey Navalny, the anti-corruption campaigner, have not even been legalized. They have virtually no access to TV except in the form of smears like programs on NTV. The official print and online media cover them only negatively, sometimes starting massive, hysterical campaigns such as those in January with a million people marching in Grozny, some carrying signs denouncing the “Fifth Column” and showing the faces of top opposition leaders.

The independent press, which does cover the opposition, sometimes with partisan zeal and other times with greater sarcasm than state media, is now itself under tremendous pressure from the Kremlin, with dismissals of editors at RBC and Gazeta and replacement with more compliant editors from state media.

All parties in the parliamentary elections have to select a federal list for their party, i.e. a list of their top candidates as a party, as well as a single-mandate list, i.e. a list of those who will run in individual districts as opposition candidates. So if as a whole, the party crosses the 5% threshold required by law to enter parliament, depending on the percentage of the overall votes they take in the country, they will be able to seat their candidates in the order of their list. In addition, their members who beat others in single mandate districts can represent that district.

Dissension in Parnas: Yashin’s Critique

On July 2, Ilya Yashin, the former deputy chair of the Parnas published a critique of the Parnas convention that day on his Facebook page. He mourned the break-up of the Democratic Coalition because he believed their strength was in attracting allies, and felt Kasyanov was insisting on keeping his first spot on the list at the expense of losing key partners.

Yashin feels that not only has Parnas lost important allies who left, but it has acquired new allies that will drive others away, notably Vyacheslav Maltsev, who was voted 2nd place on Parnas’ federal list at their convention. As he wrote (translation by The Interpreter):

I didn't have a position on his candidacy until yesterday, when he spoke at the political council. For about an hour, we listened to a crazy stream of consciousness about the "Jewish mafia in medicine," the Masonic conspiracy," and "political losers." For dessert, Maltsev announced that Parnas deputy chair Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr. was poisoned not by the Chekists, but "one of his own people -- for mundane reasons."

Judging from everything, he believes that Maltsev with his audacious 'charisma" will bring the party additional votes. I doubt it: patients at psychiatric clinics who believe in ‘Masonic conspiracies,’ traditionally vote for Zhirinovsky, whom Maltsev clearly tries to imitate. But why vote for a caricature of Zhirinovsky, if the leader of the LDPR [the ill-named Liberal Democratic Party of Russia -- The Interpreter] himself is taking part in elections. So we will hardly attract new voices.

Yashin also said he didn’t agree with Kasyanov’s program and slogan “Let’s Reset the System” – the system had to be changed, not rebooted, he said. He also felt the job of the opposition was to bang on topics others were afraid to mention – Chechnya, and the call for the resignation of leader Ramzan Kadyrov for allegations of crimes and human rights violations; Panama offshores, and kickbacks at state corporations. The election shouldn’t be about who could complain the loudest against the “pathetic and worthless government” of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, said Yashin.

What was left unclear was whether the opposition would take on economic issues like the likely freezing of state budget workers’ wages, the ban on foreign imports, the road fees for truckers, and so on which undoubtedly would be addressed at least by district candidates.

While withdrawing his own name from the party list over these disagreements, Yashin remains a member of the party and said he would help with campaigning because “it is the only party in the elections totally independent from the Kremlin.” As he and others have pointed out, Yabloko is funded by the government as a “3% party” and that means its leadership’s salaries come from the Kremlin, meaning a possible form of social control over them.

While there were some “defectors” to other parties, the rank-and-file of the party did not appear to be massively rebelling, and in the end, , the convention approved a party list of 113 candidates. (The enumeration of the people in the list is not related to their position of priority on the list.)

Kasyanov was accorded first place, Maltsev second, and third is Prof. Viktor Zubov, a former professor at the Moscow Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), dismissed in 2014 over his criticism of the annexation of Crimea. It's not clear if Zubov, a liberal who has often promoted human rights, commented on Maltsev.

At the convention, some Parnas members made the compelling point that they had to respect the democratic result of the primaries, even if disliked, and also Maltsev's existing credentials as a democratically-elected official. As Svoboda reported, the ballot for the list was secret, but Maltsev won 78 for and 45 opposed, mainly influenced by Kasyanov's support. Then when a vote was taken again about whether to approve the list as a whole; 25 were opposed of the 104 delegates.

To get a snapshot of how well the liberal opposition can do in an area they campaign we can see the reporting of Svobodnaya Pressa,; when votes were counted on the last day of the primaries, Maltsev had 5,471 and Andrei Zubov had 1,665. Then, despite segregation and safeguarding of data, outside hackers managed to expose the personal data of voters and placed them on the party's site -- which invalidated the primaries vote, the party's election commission was forced to conclude. This immediately sparked rumors that Kasyanov had engineered the hack to bypass the unpleasant results of the primaries; deputy chairman Konstantin Merzlikin himself made this allegation.

Parnas Convention: Maltsev’s Claim of a “Jewish Mafia”

On July 4, journalist Mikhail Sokolov of the Russian-language service of RFE/RL Radio analyzed the Parnas convention describing Maltsev as "the brutal Saratov politician who has several hundred thousand viewers on his videoblog" and Zubov as "the most intelligentsia-like emigre from the academic world."

He pointed out that the convention, in which about 100 people took part, was plagued with organizational as well as political problems and divergence of views. While Kasyanov’s invoked truisms like the lack of separation of powers in Russia and the falling of people’s income by 8% a year, seemingly “softened” from Parnas’ previous positions, Zubov gave a fiery speech saying the opposition was going to liberate the people of Russia, and not just to “remove the Putin group from power”. To be sure, Zubov’s prescription was peaceful dissent, because otherwise “the alternative to elections is rebellion” – something Russians fear with their memories of not only the 1917 revolution but perestroika and the economic convulsions of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

As Sokolov reported, Maltsev earned himself major animosity by demanding that two members be removed from the party list: Ilya Yashin and Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr. a journalist and program manager for Open Russia founded by exiled businessman and former political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky. He also proposed eliminating Aleksandr Potkin-Belov, a nationalist currently held in Lefortovo Prison on charges of "extremism" who took fifth place in the primaries.

As noted, Maltsev also denounced Kara-Murza for testifying that he believed he was poisoned deliberately for his activities – although many independent journalists and observers support Kara-Murza’s claim. Maltsev believed the poisoning was related to "mundane matters" and could be a relative or friend. His claim seemed to be retaliation for Kara-Murza's proposal even back in June to remove him.

Andrei Pivovarov, another Parnas member, also spoke against Maltsev and said the party would lose voters, who would go over to Yabloko:

"We have a chance in St. Petersburg. And it will be hard for me to answer the reproaches: you have in your troika a person who believes there is a 'Masonic conspiracy' and a 'Jewish mafia.’"

With Maltsev now turning out possibly to be Parnas’ best hope of actually getting into parliament, there has been a lot of dissecting of his past and present.

A lengthy entry on ("kompromat" is a Russian term meaning "compromising materials") records Maltsev's past with numerous links to regional press which curiously seems to show little activity from 2013-2016. His main claim to fame seems to be his popular YouTube channel show called "Bad News".

According to his official biography, Maltsev was a member of the Soviet Komsomol who served in the Soviet border guards, which were under the KGB, and eventually graduated from night school with a law degree, working as a police inspector until 1989, after which he went to work for a private detective agency. He was first elected a deputy to the Saratov regional legislature in 1994 and has since been re-elected twice, serving in committees on law and civic organizations and heading up the Popular Front of Saratov Region. While once a member of United Russia, Maltsev later turned on it with criticism of corruption. He seems to have come by his intolerant views not from nationalist movements -- although he has flirted with them -- so much as from Soviet and provincial culture in general.

As SP pointed out Maltsev, in the last 9 years, had swung from supporting Kasyanov's Russian Popular Democratic Union to the ultraright party Great Russia to Yabloko to the Communists, winning on their ticket. While he called himself a "leftist radical" and "national democrat," he claimed:

"Those who called me an advocate of rightist views are simply fools. Of course I'm leftist. And yes I have radical convictions. Therefore, I'm a leftist radical."

The View Through a Microscope

Denis Yastrebov, a Saratov political commentator said Maltsev was "an opportunist and a filibusterer," and that he had changed parties and movements many time and it was "funny" that he had wound up in Parnas which he said was "a quite marginal organization”:

“On the other hand, if he’ll be there, even so, it will be a big scandal for that crowd. Still and all, he's a well-known nationalist, and from the perspective of the liberal community, a homophobe. Purely stylistically, he and Mikhail Kasyanov are simply not compatible.”

Yastrebov thought the scandals within Parnas only helped Yabloko, and that Parnas members would cross over to Yabloko and then Yavlinsky "might raise his chances of crossing the 3-percent barrier.” But from the perspective of sociology, he said in any case, these issues “can be viewed only through a microscope."

When Maltsev took the podium to defend himself from critics, he pointed out that not only Kasyanov but Nemtsov had supported his candidacy in the regional legislature in 2012 but Viktor Ryzhkov, Parnas’ one-time co-chairman, had opposed him. He pointed out that while he won the elections, Parnas candidates of that time lost with less than .03%. Maltsev cited his YouTube credits -- 1.4 million visitors from Russia -- and to counter claims of his anti-semitism -- even 14,000 from Israel.

But in his defensive speech at the convention, Maltsev he seems to have dug himself in deeper, as can be seen from a video excerpted by Radio Svoboda:

Regarding anti-semitism: first, they dragged in some article, it turned out to be written by a different Maltsev. So they needed to smear Maltsev with the claim of anti-semitism but there was nothing to it. I worked professionally in criminal justice. One of the methods of criminology is to isolate groups -- criminal groups, that is, and ethnic groups as well. So if Maltsev is an anti-semite, then Sergio Leone is as well, no? should also be an anti-semite, correct? Did you see the film "Once Upon A Time in America"? What is this film about? What is this film "Once Upon a Time in America" about, anyway?

[Voice from the audience] About the Jewish mafia.

Maltsev:  Correct! Correct! Therefore, if you can't speak those words, then...

Sergio Leone was an Italian film director who created "Once Upon a Time in America" starring Robert De Niro and James Woods. The film, made in 1984, was about the life of Jewish ghettos and organized crime, spanning the 1920s through 1960s. The story of individual Jewish street kids in mafia gangs in the 1920s was not about a purported "Jewish mafia" running the world then or now.

As for Masons, Maltsev went on to say that a piece published 10 years ago was at issue. "There was no talk of any Masonic conspiracy, only Masonic symbols were discussed," he claimed. He further boosted his opposition street cred – he left the police in 1989 because they dispersed demonstrations that had begun then in the perestroika era, and while he was among founders of United Russia, he left it in 2003, and had founded the first Democratic Coalition and issued the first manifesto calling it a "party of crooks".

Maltsev said in an interview that he was willing to make common cause with the "liberal Westernizers" (Kasyanov, Yashin and others in Moscow) for the sake of defeating the regime. He said it would "be logical" if he was second in the Parnas list but "but I don't need a friggin' seat in the State Duma" because "this body doesn't decide anything."

"We need the totality of power," he added -- and reconfirmed his belief in the conspiracy theory that the next revolution in Russia will take place November 5, 2017.

Enmity at the Top, Unity at the Bottom

Svoboda's Sokolov then interviewed Kasyanov July 4 about the Maltsev scandal and the negative assessment of him by his own party's most influential liberals. Kasyanov implied the campaign process would change him.

Sokolov: So you will re-educate Maltsev?

Kasyanov: To some extent, yes.

Kasyanov reported that out of 102 elected via the primaries for the party's federal list, 95 of these remained as 7 had removed themselves from the list -- these included Vladimir Milov, former deputy energy minister. Of these 95, he said 50 were from Navalny's Party of Progress, Democratic Choice and December 5 -- the rest were his own party.

Thus, he was pointing out that the "implosion" within the opposition is not as bad as the Western and Russian press have made it out to be. Though his party did not unite with the top leadership of Navalny's Party of Progress and Yavlinsky’s Yabloko, Parnas backed certain candidates in the provinces jointly, and the mixed Parnas list itself indicated a "democratic coalition" still existed in the list and local elections if not the leadership in Moscow.

"I don't consider Yabloko our competitor and rival," he said.

Sokolov pointed out that despite the cooperation of "rank-and-file" Yabloko members, Kasyanov’s failure to compromise with Yavlinsky and Georgy Saratov, a prominent commentator and Yabloko member who left the coalition over the issue of its failure to stay united with Yabloko, looked bad. "This is probably a bad thing for those who want to see European democracy in Russia."

Kasyanov said he didn't think so because what mattered is they would continue to cooperate, and that 17 prominent civic activists had called on voters to vote for either Parnas or Yabloko and that their programs "were not opposed" to each other.

On July 3, Parnas had confirmed their list of 113 candidates for the single-mandate ballots, which is separate from the federal list; these included those supported by multiple parties such as Dmitry Gudkov, who already has a seat in the Duma, and Prof. Zubov.

Asked if negotiations for unity might continue, Kasyanov said yes, but that he couldn't ask people like Nikolai Lyaskin, an environmentalist of Navalny's Party of Progress and Anti-Corruption Foundation not to run against Sergei Mitrokhin, former Yabloko leader and deputy in the State Duma and Moscow Duma in the past.

One problem with trying to assess this issue is that most parties in fact keep their list secret, as RBC reported. Is Yabloko supporting any outright Parnas members?

What Boris Would Have Done

Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr., who himself is not running in the elections, said the opposition "must take part in unfree elections" and those who "don't accept the regime of thievery and aggression" must "give a political voice to those who support the alternative."

"That was what Boris Nemtsov believed, and he himself ran on the regional ballot in Yaroslavl, and he could have won. Someone didn't want this very much."

With that statement, Kara-Murza was indicating a theory for the murder of Nemtsov not related directly to the anti-war march he was to lead on the eve of his assassination, nor his exposure of Russian military in Ukraine, and certainly not his support of the Charlie Hebdo journalists. The charismatic Nemtsov, once a first deputy prime minister, had been in power in the Kremlin, had sat in a regional legislature, and could have been elected to the State Duma -- a scenario that those who ordered his murder may have found threatened the monopoly of power. Said Kara-Murza:

“We have the opportunity to go into the elections thanks to Nemtsov's mandate. The congress of our allies in the Yabloko party is underway. I would like to call for treating them precisely this way, both publicly and not publically. There will be districts where there is a candidate in common with Yabloko: Dmitry Gudkov in Tushino District and Andrei Zubov in the Central Administrative District. We will have to work together after this regime is sent to the dustbin of history!”

Thus, the leading opposition party’s best hope is a barely-veiled provincial anti-Semite and YouTube star, and a professor whose opposition to the annexation of Crimea runs against the majority position even on many liberals in Russia. Other lesser-known figures in the list have been subject to criminal cases and beatings to silence them. The prospect that they will at least expose the process as unfair and corrupt is considerably diminished not so much by their disunity but the crushing of independent bloggers and media.

Whatever he would have done, Boris is gone now, and there is little likelihood of the real masterminds of his murder being brought to justice – a reality that ultimately marks the boundaries of the opposition’s prospects.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick