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Russian School Director Warns FSB Will 'Look Into' 15-Year-Old Navalny Fan

The large youth turnout at protest events called by anticorruption campaigner Aleksei Navalny seems to have worried many Russian officials. (file photo)
The large youth turnout at protest events called by anticorruption campaigner Aleksei Navalny seems to have worried many Russian officials. (file photo)

Evidence of widespread efforts in Russian schools to warn students about supporting opposition leader Aleksei Navalny keeps rolling in.

The latest known incident comes from the Far East city of Khabarovsk, where a school director reportedly warned a 15-year-old student that Russian security services would look into his support for Navalny, who the administrator claimed is a tool in a U.S. plot against Russia.

Like several other students across the country this year, 9th-grader Timur Valiullin surreptitiously recorded a meeting he had with school officials about his political activities, including Olga Kodina, director of 202nd Airborne Brigade Multidisciplinary Lyceum in Khabarovsk.

The audio file, which was published this week by the Khabarovsk branch of Navalny's presidential campaign, documents the dressing-down Kodina delivered to Valiullin and his parents over his efforts as a volunteer with Navalny's team.

At one point, Kodina warns that if Valiullin doesn't behave "quietly," Russia's powerful Federal Security Service (FSB) will "look into him." She suggests he has attempted to recruit fellow students into a "cult" and accuses him of disseminating pro-Navalny "propaganda" at the school.

The recording is one of numerous secretly recorded audio and video files
leaked online this year showing teachers and administrators at Russian schools and universities urging students not to take part in unsanctioned political protests, and portraying Navalny as a dangerous Pied Piper.

Kremlin critics have accused authorities of illegally exploiting the country's educational system to curtail dissent.

Navalny, 41, is an anticorruption crusader and fierce opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin who is seeking to run in the March 2018 presidential election that Putin is widely expected to enter and win for a fourth term.

Russian anticorruption campaigner Aleksei Navalny (file photo)
Russian anticorruption campaigner Aleksei Navalny (file photo)

Navalny has campaigned nationwide despite statements by federal election officials that he is ineligible to run because of a financial-crimes conviction in one of two high-profile cases that he says were fabricated as retribution for his political activities.

He has attracted a substantial following among young, digital-savvy Russians who have taken part in several nationwide anticorruption protests that he has organized this year. The youth turnout at these events has triggered handwringing among Russian officials.

Russia's top anti-extremism police official -- who, by coincidence, is named Timur Valiulin -- said this week that the parents and, possibly, teachers of minors who attend demonstrations staged without permission from authorities should be subject to punishment under the law.

"Undoubtedly, the participation of young people in unsanctioned street rallies is a matter of concern for us," the official told an October 17 meeting of Putin's human rights and civil society council in Moscow. "And we...are also troubled by the fact that such protesters are getting younger."

'Sitting There Getting Fat'

The potential blowback of a pro-Navalny movement at her school clearly weighed on the mind of Kodina during her meeting with Valiullin -- the student -- and his parents.

"Misfortune has befallen your home," she tells his parents. "And my home as well, because your son studies here."

She describes Navalny as a "thief" and a "product of U.S. security services"

For his part, Valiullin denied in an interview with RFE/RL that he has engaged in political campaigning in school. "I have never urged classmates to vote for Navalny and never passed out stickers, buttons, or newspapers in class," he said.

He brushed off Kodina's warnings about the FSB, calling it "nonsense, nothing more."

Reached by RFE/RL, Kodina said that the meeting in question took place on September 22. She accused Valiullin of releasing a manipulated recording that omitted parts of the meeting, including comments by a teacher who said the student was vocal about his political views in class.

Kodina, who is also a local lawmaker with the ruling United Russia party, declined to comment on her remarks about the FSB during the meeting but said she is "worried for this child."

"I am concerned because such kids are used by dishonest people," she told RFE/RL.

At one point in the recording, Kodina appears to agree with some of the Russian opposition's complaints. "Yes, we have a bad government. It has no rule of law. It oppresses poor homosexuals and other thinking people," she says.

She repeatedly cuts the student off -- at one point saying, "Shut your mouth!" -- and accuses him of insulting her as the school's director and as a Russian citizen "with your attitude toward the government that feeds you, that raises you for free, and educates you."

Valiullin replies: "Not for free, but rather with money from taxes that my parents pay."

After asking the student to tally up precisely how much his parents pay in taxes and accusing him of "sitting there getting fat" on public services paid for by other people's taxes, Kodina tells Valiullin: "Take your documents and get out of here."

Written by Carl Schreck based on reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service correspondent Darina Shevchenko
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    Darina Shevchenko

    Darina Shevchenko is a correspondent for RFE/RL's Russian Service.

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    Carl Schreck

    Carl Schreck is an award-winning investigative journalist who serves as RFE/RL's enterprise editor. He has covered Russia and the former Soviet Union for more than 20 years, including a decade in Moscow. He has led investigations into corruption, cronyism, and disinformation campaigns in Russia and Central Asia, as well as on poisoning attacks against Kremlin opponents and assassinations of Iranian exiles in the West. Schreck joined RFE/RL in 2014.