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Opposition supporters take part in an unauthorized rally in central St. Petersburg on October 7.

Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny appeared to receive public support from an unexpected source this week -- Moscow's renowned State Tretyakov Gallery.

The gallery's official Twitter account on November 1 tweeted out Navalny's latest video announcing that he plans to sue Russian President Vladimir Putin and his administration over what he calls an orchestrated nationwide effort to stymie his campaign for the March 2018 presidential election.

The video still accompanying the link featured a photoshopped image of Putin as a waiter carrying a pig's head on a tray -- a reference to an incident this week in which Navalny's campaign said the head of a pig was tied to the door of an Irkutsk office building where it plans to meet on November 4.

The tweet from one of Russia's most famous art galleries, which stated that the gallery "liked the video Vladimir Putin And The Pig's Head," triggered bemusement among Russian-language Twitter users.

"The Tretyakov Gallery knows what's up :)," one Twitter user wrote.

Referring to announcements by several individuals -- including TV personality and journalist Ksenia Sobhack -- that they intend to enter the Russian presidential race despite no realistic attempt at winning, another Twitter user wrote, "The Tretyakov Gallery announced that it will run for president."

The original tweet of the Navalny video was subsequently deleted, and the gallery later said on Twitter that its account had been "hacked." It said the video "has no relation whatsoever to the museum and its activities."

Navalny, who has riled Russia's ruling elite with his anticorruption investigations, is seeking to run in the election, which Putin -- who has yet to announce his candidacy -- is widely expected to enter and win.

Navalny has continued to campaign nationwide despite statements by officials that he is ineligible for the ballot due to a financial-crimes conviction that he says was fabricated as retribution for his political activism.

The New York-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) charged in a statement in September that Russian authorities are "systematically" interfering with Navalny's bid for the Russian presidency, including with raids on his campaign offices and detentions of his volunteers that it called "arbitrary."

Stanislav Yus (right) stands with Christopher Miller outside Ukraine's Yuzhmash rocket factory.

DNIPRO, Ukraine -- Stanislav Yus is as polite and unassuming as the missiles he created for the Soviet Union were menacing and deadly.

When I meet Yus beside a once-dreaded but now-defunct "Satan" SS-18 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that he designed at the height of the Cold War, he's cheerful yet appears somewhat surprised to find an American on the other side of a handshake. You'd have never been allowed here 30 years ago, he chuckles.

"Here" is inside Ukraine's heavily guarded and secretive state-run rocket-making factory, comprised of the Yuzhnoye design bureau and its manufacturing partner, Yuzhmash.

Yus, 80, a native of the Dnipro region, started his career at Yuzhnoye at the age of 22 under the tutelage of then-chief designer Mikhail Yangel, a Soviet legend. He rose rapidly through the ranks, helping design several rockets and spacecraft. But his legacy is built on the massive ICBMs he designed, like the Satan, as the West called it, which could deliver 10 or more nuclear warheads with great precision halfway around the world in roughly 20 minutes.

Yus -- a laureate of the Soviet Lenin Prize, Lenin Komsomol Prize, and a Hero of Socialist Labor -- is already a legend in his own right, and one of the last of his generation of missile designers.

After a quick ride to Yangel's original home near the factory, Yus gives a detailed history of Yuzhnoye and explains how drastically things changed for the factory at the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the U.S.S.R. In a nutshell, government contracts had ensured that the factory stayed busy. The period following Ukraine's independence was a "trying" time, he says.

He appears uncomfortable, or perhaps just cautious, when discussing the relationship between Ukraine and Russia these days, more than three years into an undeclared war that has killed more than 10,100 people. He prefers to stick to talking design, the more technical the better.

But I want to know: Did he ever think about the devastation the missiles he designed during the Cold War were capable of inflicting, of nuclear annihilation?

Yus takes a deep breath.

"I wasn't overthinking it," he says, suggesting that compartmentalization is a key element for a missile designer to effectively do his job.

Pressed a bit, he admits in his characteristic manner that he remained fully aware that, had the Cold War turned hot and his missiles been let loose, it would have marked a "very destructive period for the world."

"We were working in accordance with the Soviet policies only to protect the Soviet Union in the event that we were struck first," he adds.

Today, he says, with Yuzhnoye having diversified and investment spread among other activities, "it doesn't allow us to work fully in the area of rocket complexes." Rocket design and manufacturing continues, but at a much slower pace than in Soviet times.

Much of Yus's focus now is on designing high-capacity wind turbines, trolleybuses, and combine harvesters that the company believes will help it to endure in a new age.

But given the chance, he'd get back to work full-time on designing missiles, Yus says, which are "needed for the defense of the country."

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About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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