Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former Russian oil tycoon jailed by the Kremlin, has called on supporters to back the presidential bid of anticorruption crusader Aleksei Navalny in next year’s election.
The call by Khodorkovsky, made April 15 at a gathering of his Open Russia organization, was the latest bit of political maneuvering ahead of the 2018 vote in which Vladimir Putin is expected to seek a second consecutive term.
Opposition to Putin is fractured across many groups, parties, and individuals, many of whom have battled one another for years, undermining efforts to build a united front.
Since being pardoned by Putin in 2013, Khodorkovsky has used his Open Russia movement to try and build a a more viable opposition movement.
Navalny’s charisma and growing popularity has given some hope that opposition groups will coalesce around him, despite uncertainty about past convictions on what his supporters say are trumped-up charges.
“Replacing Putin with another Putin can’t possibly work for us. Therefore I propose supporting Navalny in the presidential elections,” Khodorkovsky wrote in a tweet.
Last month, Navalny helped spearhead Russia's biggest antigovernment demonstrations since a series of rallies that Navalny also helped lead in 2011-12.
Hoping to emulate that success, Navalny called for new demonstrations to be held June 12.