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Russian Opposition Leader Navalny Voices Presidential Ambitions

Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny
Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny
Russian opposition leader and anticorruption blogger Aleksei Navalny has declared his ambition to become president.

He made the remark in an interview with the independent "Dozhd" television channel late on April 4.

"I want to become president," he said. "I want to change life in our country. I want to change the system of governance. I don't want the 140 million people, who live here and who have oil and gas running out of the ground, to live in hopeless poverty, but I want them to live normal lives, like in a European country."

Navalny, a charismatic 36-year-old lawyer, has emerged as one of President Vladimir Putin's most strident critics.

Navalny indicated that if he ever came to power he would ensure prosecutors launch investigations against Putin and two prominent businessmen close to him -- Gennady Timchenko and Arkady Rotenberg.

"All of them are links in this despicable, thieving chain of government," he said.

Navalny's remarks came just hours after a Russian court announced that he would go on trial on April 17 over embezzlement charges related to a business deal struck by authorities in Kirov, whom he advised in 2009.

He denies wrongdoing and claims the accusations are politically motivated. He told "Dozhd" that he had no doubt the court would find him guilty.

He faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted.

Under Russian law, even a suspended prison sentence would disqualify him from running for president.

Despite his popularity in certain circles, Navalny's chances of winning a presidential election appear slim.

A poll published on April 4 by the respected Levada Center showed that just 37 percent of Russians know who he is.

Only 14 percent of respondents said they would consider voting for him in an election.

Navalny told "Dozhd" that his low ratings were due to the lack of visibility of opposition figures on state-controlled television channels.

With reporting by AFP, Interfax, and
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