Opposition leader Nemtsov intimidated by $30 fine

Co-Chairman of the "People's Freedom" party (PARNAS) Boris Nemtsov (RIA Novosti/Andrey Stenin)
One of the leaders of the unregistered political party Parnas, Boris Nemtsov, accused the authorities of intimidation campaign after the court fined him 1,000 rubles for illegal propaganda against all candidates at a municipal election.

­The court was considering Nemtsov’s case for the second time. Initially the politician was acquitted on August 26, but prosecutors filed an appeal and the retrial ended in a guilty finding. Nemtsov’s lawyers said they will appeal the sentence again.

Nemtsov was accused of illegal propaganda at the recent municipal elections in the city of St. Petersburg. The case is complicated because the politician was charged with illegal propaganda for urging the voters not to vote for anyone, which is not an option in the current Russian political system. Thus, Nemtsov’s actions could not technically be qualified as propaganda, resulting in an initial acquittal. On Wednesday, however, a judge found Nemtsov guilty of producing and placing the propaganda materials in violation of the law norms and sentenced him to a fine of 1000 rubles ($30).

Nemtsov said that the process against him was “an act of intimidation aimed not against the politicians, but the artists and cultural personalities who take part in the Nakh-Nakh project.”

The Nakh-Nakh is a recently-founded project that calls for voters to cross out the election ballots at the forthcoming parliamentary elections as a protest against the dominance of the United Russia party in the political field. “The authorities are scared that the apolitical people and the younger generation are getting involved in the project. Besides, they understand that the project will continue at the presidential elections,” Nemtsov said.

On the same day Nemtsov was convicted, the unregistered opposition party Parnas (The People’s Freedom Party, of which Nemtsov is a co-chairman) announced that it will possibly not be putting forward a candidate at the forthcoming presidential poll and will concentrate on promoting the protest vote.

The party criticized the law norm that required that the presidential candidates present 2 million signatures of their supporters in order to be registered. Nemtsov said in a press interview that this was actually “a ban for all candidates who were not connected with the regime.” He also said that his movement promoted the return of previous elections rules, such as notifying registration and financial guarantees. He also reiterated the intention to promote the protest vote at both parliamentary and presidential polls.

Nemtsov’s colleagues from Parnas also said that they will not propose a presidential candidate, but stressed that this was not because they lacked worthy candidates, but rather that there is no fair electoral system in the country.