Rocker shocks Russians with run for mayor

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MOSCOW — A Russian shock rocker running for mayor of a sizable Moscow suburb sums up the nation’s anti-Putin movement with four words: “They are utterly uninteresting.”

The same certainly can’t be said of Sergei Troitsky, better known as “Spider” of the thrash metal band Korroziya Metalla (Corrosion of Metal), who is promising to employ half-naked female city administration staffers and create a zoo of mechanical animals if he becomes mayor of Khimki, a city of about 200,000 just north of Moscow.

“If I become mayor, I’ll solve the problem of corruption by hiring Germans to work as functionaries,” Mr. Troitsky, 46, said as he registered as a candidate in mid-September. “As you all know, Germans don’t take bribes.”

The election Sunday offers the chance of a rare electoral victory for the opposition movement, which has organized a 10-month-long campaign of protests against the rule of President Vladimir Putin, who has tightened restrictions on dissent.

The winner of Khimki’s mayoral election also will decide the fate of nearby woodland slated for destruction to make way for a proposed billion-dollar highway that would link Moscow and St. Petersburg. Mr. Troitsky says the forest should be cut down because it is “dirty.”

Anti-Putin candidate Yevgenia Chirikova, an eco-activist who opposes the highway, says Mr. Troitsky is part of a cynical ploy by Kremlin-connected officials to ruin her chances at the polls by distracting voters from “real” issues.

“His candidacy is simply an attempt to turn the elections into a farce and detract attention from my bid and my opposition to the highway,” Ms. Chirikova told The Washington Times.

An independent public opinion survey published last week showed that she has support of 11 percent of voters in Khimki. Acting Mayor Oleg Shakhov, an independent who is supported by Mr. Putin’s United Russia party, leads the field with 44 percent.

Mr. Troitsky, whose poll numbers were in the low single digits, reacted angrily to allegations that his sole function is to spoil Ms. Chirikova’s chances of election.

Chirikova says I’m a spoiler,” he shouted after he and his scantily clad campaign staff delivered his ballot registration documents. “And maybe I am — for the opposition.

“The U.S. State Department will come after her after she loses at the polls and ask, ‘Where’s the money?’ And she’ll have to say, ‘The spoiler, you know? We’ve wasted all the cash,’” he added, echoing Mr. Putin’s frequent accusations that Washington has been financing protests against the Kremlin.

Mr. Troitsky also ridiculed what he dubs the “naivety” of the Obama administration over its alleged attempt to stir up revolution in Russia.

“It’s a classic scam. They say to the White House, ‘Come on, give us some cash, and we’ll create an Orange Revolution and everything will be so great,’” he said in reference to the pro-democracy revolts that rocked former Soviet republics in the past decade. “And they get the cash and put on these stupid performances, which the Americans just lap up.

“I may be a spoiler for Chirikova, but for the people of Khimki, I am the savior,” Mr. Troitsky said.

The shock rocker acknowledges that he is on first-name terms with Kremlin staff.

“People in high-up government positions, including in the Kremlin administration, were all young once and used to come to our concerts,” he said. “And when we meet up to get drunk, of course we discuss issues like, for example, how best to develop Russia.”

Since announcing his candidacy, Mr. Troitsky has given nearly a dozen interviews to Russian media, but perhaps the most memorable was to the hip, opposition-minded online TV channel Dozhd.

Sprinkling his answers with “for example,” he mocked the political tactics of the anti-Kremlin movement.

“[Opposition leader Boris] Nemtsov would be better off saying at rallies, ‘Look, we have this really cool scientist who’s got some designs for a flying saucer that flies over water, for example, and if we get into power, everyone can get one for a small sum,’ for example,” he said, without even a hint of a smirk.

“But as it is,” he added with a sigh, “they are utterly uninteresting.”

Mr. Troitsky belongs to Russia’s post-Soviet tradition of political eccentrics, which has included a Kremlin-backed psychic, a singer suspected of having Mafia connections and the founder of a catastrophic financial pyramid.

The shock rocker achieved an unlikely electoral triumph in 1998, when he came in first in snap parliamentary elections in the fiercely working-class Moscow suburb of Lyubertsy.

But the results were voided after the turnout failed to reach the required 25 percent.

That was his second foray into politics, five years after he ran for mayor of Moscow in 1993. Those votes also were scrapped — this time amid the violent suppression of a parliamentary rebellion by President Boris Yeltsin.

“Korroziya Metalla were at the height of their fame back then,” Mr. Troitsky said. “I would have won easily and turned Moscow into the coolest city ever.”

Khimki residents appear unwilling to allow Mr. Troitsky to weave his tangled web over their city.

“That heavy metal guy? He’s made a mockery of the whole elections,” said Tatiana Volkova, a 34-year-old housewife. “And who’s paying for all this? That’s what I’d like to know.”

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