Within the first interview from jail, an optimistic Navalny speaks about life in jail

The Kremlin was so concerned about the upcoming elections, he said, that this year it cracked down on not only its group and other activists, but also moderate opposition politicians, civil society groups and independent news outlets like Meduza, Proekt and Dozhd TV.

Mr Navalny suggested that while the raid might prove to be a tactical success for Mr Putin, it could also be a long-term burden.

“Putin has solved his tactical question: we must not take the majority from the Duma,” said Navalny of the lower house of the Russian parliament. “With that he valued the potential of ‘Smart Voting’ very highly. But in order to achieve this, he had to completely change the political system, move to a fundamentally different, much harsher level of authoritarianism. “

In the longer term, said Navalny, there is a risk of repression as Mr Putin turns local and regional leaders into enemies “who have been thrown out of the political system along with us.”

Mr Navalny suggested that the move highlighted a major weakness in Mr Putin’s political system. While left and nationalists are represented by parties loyal to Putin, there is no stable, Kremlin-friendly center-right party representing the country’s rising middle class of relatively wealthy, urban-living Russians.

“In Russia there is no opposition because Aleksei Navalny or someone else commands it from headquarters,” said Navalny, “but because about 30 percent of the country – mainly the educated urban population – has no political representation.”

When what he called the reactionary anomaly of Putin’s rule fades, Russia will return to democratic governance, Navalny said. “We are specific, like any nation, but we are Europe. We are the West. “

Julian E. Barnes contributed the reporting from Washington.

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