“Russian Obama” quits majority party

Joaquim Crima (RIA Novosti / Sergey Vinyavsky)
Joaquim Crima, a native of Guinea-Bissau who settled in Russia’s southern Volgograd Region, has left the majority United Russia party and joined Fair Russia instead.

The announcement was made on the eve of the United Russia conference in Volgograd. In an open letter to the ruling party’s leader, Prime Minister Putin, Crima said that United Russia has failed to fulfill its election promises to raise salaries to state employees and control prices for basics.

“United Russia is turning into a party of bureaucrats,” the letter reads, as published on the official Fair Russia website. According to Crima, the party is deviating from the principle of acting in the interests of the people, and its members pay a lot more attention to fighting for power.

“The political monopoly of the United Russia is not only hampering the democratization of our country, but also makes decisions that contradict interests of people,” he said, addressing his one-time acquaintance Putin.

Explaining his decision to quit, Vasily Ivanovich, as he is now known, observed that his “modest wish to be useful to the party turned out to be unfulfilled” and being simply a United Russia member is not exactly what he wanted.

However, the farmer and activist stressed that he still remains a strong supporter of the modernization plan pursued by President Dmitry Medvedev and Premier Putin.

“I am confident that Fair Russia also supports this course. I hope that I will not appear to be unwanted as a member of this party,” he added.

Commenting on the move, Sergey Klimenkov, a senior member of Fair Russia, said Crima’s decision to join the party is quite a symbolic event. “We certainly do need such educated and hard-working people as Vasily Crima,” he said, as cited by volgograd.ru website.

The African-born farmer – who adopted the Russian name Vasily Ivanovich – became famous after he ran for a seat on the Municipal Council in the Sredneakhtubinsk District (in the Volgograd Region) in 2009. A black man running for an office is very unusual for Russia, where attitudes to people with different skin color are frequently negative.

"I want to make the lives of people who I consider my compatriots better. I am ready to work from morning until evening to resolve their problems. In other words, I am ready to toil like a Negro," the media quoted him as saying.

The media dubbed Crima “Russian Obama”, even though the only thing the two have in common is the color of their skin. Unlike the American president, Vasily Ivanivich did not manage to achieve the impossible and – quite predictably – failed to become the first African-born official in Russia.

But, as the latest events show, Crima is not ready to give up.

A graduate of the Volgograd Pedagogical University, Crima has been living in Russia for over 20 years, earning his living by growing and selling fruit and vegetables, mainly watermelons.