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tv   Leonid Volkov - Chief of Staff...  BBC News  September 22, 2020 4:30am-5:01am BST

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the latest headlines for you from bbc news. more than 150 nations have joined a world health organization project aimed at the common development and fair distribution of future vaccines for covid—19. the scheme hopes to have 2 billion doses available by the end of next year. the us and china have declined to sign up. pubs, bars and have declined to sign up. pubs, bars a nd restau ra nts have declined to sign up. pubs, bars and restaurants in england have been ordered to close by 10pm amid new coronavirus restrictions. government scientific advisers have warned that without action and a little over three weeks could be 50,000 new cases a day. president trump plans to announce his female nominee for the us supreme court on saturday. the death ofjustice with peter ginsberg has ignited a furious debate on whether her replacement should be chosen before or after november's presidential election. decisions on the supreme court can shake the country for decades.
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it is az30am, time for hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk, i'm stephen sackur. as soon as he emerged from his coma, alexei navalny, the russian opposition leader apparently poisoned by novichok nerve agent, expressed his determination to return to moscow. but what future is there for an anti—putin political movement in a country where dissent is all too often seriously bad for your health? well, my guest is leonid volkov, opposition politician and chief—of—staff to mr navalny. is there any weakening of the kremlin's grip on power?
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leonid volkov in berlin, welcome to hardtalk. hello. good afternoon. it's a pleasure to have you on the show. you, of course, are in berlin because that is where mr navalny is still being treated in hospital. give us the very latest information on his condition. his condition is getting better. he is really understanding everything what's going around and he's able to, like, communicate with the outer world, as you can see on his instagram and twitter. and he's really doing remarkable progress. and we, his friends and the family and the staff, are very happy to observe his progress.
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and still, we have to realise it's a long way to go. it will take a lot of time to completely recuperate after a novichok poison attack. in his social media, and also from you and other colleagues, it's been said that he is absolutely determined to return to moscow as soon as he is able. do you think that is really wise? for none of us, it was ever a question. of course, we never consider it... ..as an option that alexei would like to stay, like, in exile or, like, would like to stay... in another country. so, it was just never on the table. so, i'm... i don't think it's a good idea for someone to talk about the thoughts and feelings of another man. so, alexei is able to talk
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for himself, thank god. and i'm sure he'll tell a lot soon. but, of course, none of the team was ever surprised that he really was...made it very clear that he is going to get back. i mean, it'sjust his type of personality and it's no surprise at all. i know a little of his personality because i interviewed him on hardtalk in 2017 and i got a sense of his determination. but it comes back to wisdom. you talked in the past about how you've discussed with mr navalny security issues in his life in russia. and you said, "in the past we discussed it. "he thought that his best possible protection "was maximum publicity." so, the greater our number of supporters, the greater his approval ratings, the larger that navalny thought the risk would be for the kremlin trying to kill him.
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surely what we now know is that that was a fundamental miscalculation. if we believe that novichok was used and if we believe, as you claim, that that must involve the russian state, then, clearly, russia doesn't care about mr navalny‘s prominence. it doesn't care about the number of his supporters. he cannot go back and think that he's going to be safe. that's true. i mean, that's true that... ..we have to re—evaluate. so, what happened is something that no—one could predict and expect. and, indeed, we have to re—evaluate the threat model, the risks that now arise because, yes, many times before alexei was asked in many interviews, like, why are you not yet killed? and he always answer, as i did answer, like, we don't know. but we hope that his publicity and prominence give him some level of protection,
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and kremlin will not risk this. so, now we see kremlin risked it. and we don't believe it was novichok. we know it was novichok, it's scientifically proven. and we believe that there is not other ways novichok could be used rather than by some form of approval coming from kremlin, from mr putin. those are now the facts. and, yes, indeed, these facts lead us to the necessity to re—evaluate the situation. and, yes, when he go back to russia, we'll have to reassess all security measures we take. but it's still not a matter for discussion if he will return or not. of course he will. he can't function, though. that's the problem. we know what happened to so many prominent dissenters and opposition figures, from the journalist anna politkovskaya to boris nemtsov in 2015. we know that the opponents
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of the dissenters, and i'm being careful because i don't want to tread in legal territory that is dangerous, but we know that those sorts of people can be murdered, brazenly murdered on the streets of moscow. so, how is navalny in the future going to be able to operate as a public figure? well, i really believe he will be able to operate the same way he used to operate before, because otherwise it doesn't make any sense. so, he has 15 years of a brilliant political career, rising from, like, from nowhere to be a recognised opposition leader. this huge popular support. apparently, it's not possible. it's something you can't keep when you live abroad. so, once again, it's not the question. of course, he will be back and his operation will be as they used to be because it's something that he has to do and something he is determined to do.
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the risks were always on the table. it was not the first attack on mr navalny. he was attacked with the chemical acid before, and there was something that looked very much like a poison attempt when he was in jail, actually, last year and he had developed something like an allergy which...which in many opinions was very close to be also ...some poison attempt. of course, it's dangerous to be a dissident in russia. it's dangerous to be putin's main rival in russia. but what is the other option? i mean, either that, or nothing, or everything we believe in, everything we did isjust annihilated. well, that's definitely what the kremlin would very much like. so alexei will never do this. mr volkov, why do you think
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now, you know, august 20th, why do you think in summer, just before those municipal elections, the poisoning of alexei navalny took place? why does he think so, too? cos you must have discussed it with him. so, once again, many journalists asked question why you are not yet killed, like, in any interview alexei gives. and now in any interview alexei gave. and now is the same journalists ask questions, why it happened now? if we actually think a little bit, we realise that these questions didn't have much sense because when it happened, it should have happened at some moment of time, and which begs the question, "why now?" not really very sensible. but... my thinking is this — does it, in your opinion, in your opinion, does it strike you that it's a sign of putin and the kremlin feeling very confident or actually feeling
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a great deal of pressure? how would you read it? no, no, no. yeah, i realise. no, of course not. it's a sign of putin in the kremlin feeling very inconfident. so, one yearago, there was a direct order from kremlin to kill our political operations, to destroy our political organisation. so, several criminal allegations were... several criminal charges were pressed. 250 of our employees were searched, their apartments were searched, all their equipment, laptops, computers were seized, over 700 bank accounts were frozen, all assets of anyone belonging to our staff was frozen. so it was a operation executed by kremlin to stop our political operations.
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it was launched in august 2019. now in august 2020, all our operations are running. all our regional offices are running. our candidates are running for election since their attempt to destroy our political organisation failed, so, very naturally, they try to do the next steps, they try to do something new to prevent from... but mr... all right. ..to prevent our operate from... yeah. sorry. no, the basic question, mr volkov, is, you're trying to control... ..that‘s the idea.. you're trying to convince me that mr navalny is the opposition leader in russia. he, you say, has just been poisoned. nearly died. and, yet, we haven't seen any popular street protest in moscow or any other city defending mr navalny and protesting about what has happened to him. why no protests on navalny‘s behalf?
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the protest happened on navalny‘s behalf on polling stations, because that's the type of protest we called for. we didn't call for street protest because of his poisoning, because i mean... what should have been the demand of this protest? like, treat him? well, he's treated in the charite in berlin and he's...he‘s getting healthier. so, the people turned out to the protest on the day even they didn't want to release him to. . .to germany. there are street protests all over the country, then these protests were successful when navalny was released of his air ambulance to germany. and then we ask our supporters not to concentrate on street protest, but to concentrate on the upcoming elections, because that's what alexei wanted from them, to turn out to vote for our candidates and to defeat united russia, if it inspired it, and this happened in many regions. well, if i may say so, you have a slightly odd
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interpretation of great success, because if you look at the municipal election results, which you referred to several times, yes, your party candidates did quite well in some cities like tomsk and some other cities in the east. but generally speaking, putin's ruling party did extraordinarily well. they won all the governors‘ races, sometimes with majorities of 70, even 80%. the grip of putin on power is clearly as strong as ever and if one looks at the latest levada relatively independent opinion polling evidence, putin's standing approval rating is at around 65%. so all of your claims of a move towards you and the opposition are not borne out in either votes or opinion polls. so if you consider russian elections or russian "elections", using the terms
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you use to describe like british or german elections, then of course you would be right. only that russian elections do not operate this way. so, first of all, yeah, putin's approval rating is declining. we don't rely on levada polls. we have our own polling. it is still quite high. it's around a0%, but it's not any more the 70, 75% he used to have. and the trend is, like, very good for us. now, there were no governor race at all. in no governor election or so—called election, anyone was admitted to participate who would be in opposition, so there was just no opposition. those governors were just reappointed. but on the municipal level, indeed, in that case, in that rare cases, when our candidates were allowed in.
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by the way, we don't have a party. our party is officially not... ..is denied registration since 2012. so we don't have a registered party, and still, when our candidates made it to the ballot, managed to squeeze, they won in many cases, and this is especially important because our candidates are labelled like we are navalny candidates. navalny is putin's main rival, a man who putin ordered to be poisoned, and now our local candidates, they were not talking about local issues, local policy issues, something like this. they were talking, we are the main anti—putinists here, so we hate putin, we hate united russia, so support us. and with this message, they were able to win their districts, and this is a new landmark in russian politics. you want to persuade me that mr navalny is the dominant figure in the opposition to whom the russian people look.
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but again, i'm struggling to see the evidence. you say levada polling isn't necessarily reliable, but, frankly, a lot of people take it seriously. and in october 2019, they did a survey of navalny‘s perception amongst the russian people. 9% said that they regarded navalny‘s activities as positive, 25% said negative, and 31% said that they knew virtually nothing of his activities. and tatya na stanovaya of the moscow times says the truth is, navalny is very far from a people's hero, at least not yet. the kremlin has been remarkably successful in creating a negative image of him as a pro—western agent, a rogue and an adventurer. do you accept that navalny still has a big problem with the vast majority of the russian people? ah, this is true that kremlin propaganda did a huge
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job to worsen the image of mr navalny, and, yes, indeed, he is the favourite target for this propaganda, and they spent hours and days and months to describe him as a western agent, as a foreign agent, as a state department puppet and so on, and they use all kinds of defamation and propaganda and so on. but the fact is that we know that, for instance, the number of subscribers to his youtube channel and the number of people who weekly watch his youtube show and follow him on social media, like, doubled during the last year, doubled since his presidential... ..his attempt to register for a presidential campaign. so he, well, we always have the same answer to questions like this. if he is so not dangerous,
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and so not popular, why you are not letting him participate in any election? why you are not letting him to be on the ballot? to have a registered party? because the only time he was allowed to participate in an election, it was mayor of moscow 2013, he finished second, almost 30% of the vote, clearly representing a huge number of supporters in moscow. now they pretend, ok, it's only urban hipsters in moscow, but what about the other country? now, when sergei boyko, our regional head of our original office in novosibirsk, ran for mayor of novosibirsk last year, he also finished second, clearly ahead of all other so—called opposition figures. and now sergei boyko got elected in city council in novosibirsk. itjust strikes me you have to tread a very delicate... hang on.
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i want to talk to you about a different aspect of this, because you're in berlin, and you and mr navalny, i imagine, are hoping that the european union will make good on some of the things it said in recent days since the navalny poisoning. they've talked about imposing new levels of sanctions, of a magnitsky act for the eu, imposing the us—style magnitsky sanctions on the putin government. germany has even hinted that it might reconsider the nord stream 2 gas pipeline that would connect russia to energy markets in germany and the eu. but again, many russians, if you support greater punitive sanctions on russia from the eu and america, many russians will see you as being advocates of the western anti—russian forces. that, again, putin's narrative will play well with the russian public.
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yeah, that's true. that's absolutely true. that's why we don't support punitive sanctions and have never supported them. that's why. .. no, we don't. we... so i told it many times in many international audiences that every time the west imposes a new round of sanctions on russia, it leads to the fact that they open a box of champagne in kremlin because they're very happy. they can explain to their television audience that, you know, all the evil comes from the west, and we have to unite around mr putin to strengthen him, because he is the only one who is able to protect us from the west, who is threatening us with sanctions. that's true. every time there is a round of sanctions, the kremlin propaganda is very happy. what we always called for is to get away from the double standards,
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to go to personal sanctions against putin's ministers, parliament members, party leaders and oligarchs and so on, because the problem is where, like the west, the europe, the uk, the us always closes its eyes, is that, well, russia, russian oligarchs and putin's friends launder billions of dollars, euros and pounds from russia and invest them in the west, and the western banks are ok with it and the politicians are ok with it. and this money really is stolen from russian taxpayers and corrupts western economy and politics. and pretty much nothing was done against this during the last several years. so, of course, we call for personal targeted sanctions against putin and his cronies and allies, but not against the russian economy. mr volkov, how are you going to
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change the dynamic in russia? we now know, thanks to constitutional change, that putin has a pathway to holding onto power all the way through to 2036. you've told me that elections are controlled by the kremlin and it's very difficult for you to make headway. we also see that the media and even the internet is very carefully controlled by the kremlin. how are you going to achieve what they have achieved in belarus next door, which is getting hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters on the street day after day demanding change? how are you going to achieve something similar in russia? we have to be patient and we have to pursue the same ways, the same strategy. so we have been used at every election since 2011 as a point of stress, as a tool to create problems, to put into kremlin to get people out of the streets,
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to show and to prove that this is actually not elections, but some very unfair thing. and we managed it on several occasions. so now we are entering the most important part of the political cycle, the ongoing federal parliament elections and the presidential re—election. and of course, we know that putin will run again and will try to be re—elected flawlessly. but it's our goal to make this not flawless, but something... but to make something to happen similar to what happened in belarus. to do this, there is only one thing we can do, just to invest in the growth of our support bases, to reach out to people beyond the propaganda, beyond the abilities of propaganda. that's, of course, first of all, online, because i mean, once again, getting back to what you said, it's true that propaganda is still very strong and still many people
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even don't know who is alexei navalny, and those who know, many of them don't really like him because of what television has told them. but it is a dynamic thing, it changes over time. we manage to grow our support bases, so now we have, like, ten to 15 million people that really listen to what alexei is saying and to what our team is saying. in a couple of years, we hope it will be 30 million or a0 million, which will be already enough for a change. but we have to be very patient and hard working here. and in a word, you and he are determined to continue this campaign, even at the risk of your lives. we are determined to continue this campaign where we have invested years of our life and many risks and many efforts already. being aware of the risks that are, of course, connected with political activity and such a toxic environment like russia 2020.
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but this is something where you either take the risks or you don't. leonid volkov, we have to end there, but i thank you very much forjoining me from berlin. hello there. temperatures have been well above the seasonal average recently. lots of sunshine around, but as we head through this week, all that summery weather is about to change to something a lot more autumnal as we reach the end of the week. now, through monday, we saw highs of 26—27 degrees across the south of the country, low
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20s further north. but watch how we start to see the blue colours invade from the north and north—west, bringing that arctic air to our shores. that'll push temperatures below the seasonal average by the end of the week, struggling to get into double figures across the north of the uk. changes taking place early on tuesday across the north west of the country. low pressure active weather front bringing windier weather here, outbreaks of rain further south. tuesday will start generally dry with clear skies, a few mist and fog patches around, and most places will be relatively mild. but you'll notice more cloud across scotland and northern ireland to start tuesday. outbreaks of rain continue to affect the northern and western isles in particular, some of it heavy here, and it'll be windier, too. as we head through the day, that rain will continue to push southeastwards into much of western scotland, into northern ireland. but again, england and wales, the last of the warm, sunny days with those highs of 25—26 degrees. perhaps an odd shower developing in the midlands as cloud begins to increase from the west as we head on into the evening. overnight, that rain band
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in the north and west continues to migrate southeastwards, lying through central areas by the end of the night. and that's where we'll mark the difference between much colder, chillier conditions across scotland and northern ireland by the end of tuesday night versus something a bit milder still ahead of that weather front for england and wales. but it will be cloudy here with outbreaks of rain. as we move into wednesday, that weather front will push its way eastwards, affecting much of england and wales with some rain at times. this brief ridge of high pressure will tend to settle things down across scotland and northern ireland, but it will be much chillier here. so, probably the best of the sunshine across the north and the west of the country bar the odd shower. england and wales, cloudier skies, outbreaks of rain across eastern areas. some of this will be quite heavy at times, and it'll be turning windier around the coasts. those temperatures ranging from the low to high teens celsius, so already feeling noticeably different. towards the end of the week, though, you can see all areas will be much cooler with showers or longer spells of rain. it'll be chilly by day and also chilly at night, with a touch of frost in places.
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touch of frost in places. hello, you're with bbc news. we have headlines in the uk and around the world. the british prime minister prepares to outline a raft of leisure and work measures to control a resurgence of coronavirus. more than 150 countries sign up to an agreement to distribute future covid—19 vaccines fairly. china and the us declined tojoin. a fairly. china and the us declined to join. a fierce debate erupts over donald trump's choice for the us supreme court. the president says he wants to see his nominee in place before the election. signs of global warming. this year's arctic sea
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ice melts to the second smallest area

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