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Philadelphia resident and Alexey Navalny's former campaign manager reacts to his death

Philadelphia resident and Alexey Navalny's former campaign manager reacts to his death
Philadelphia resident and Alexey Navalny's former campaign manager reacts to his death 02:21

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A West Philadelphia resident is still processing the death of Alexey Navalny, whose funeral was on Friday. At the age of 19, Egor Cherniuk, of Kaliningrad, Russia, was appointed to run Alexey Navalny's 2018 presidential campaign in his hometown. He said he was the youngest campaign manager at the time.

"My first impression of [Navalny] was how emotionally strong he was," Cherniuk said. "And how energetic and just boisterous and physically present. He would dominate the space -- physically, intellectually and energetically. There was something akin to him that was a force of nature that I had never experienced before."

Cherniuk led a March with more than 3,000 Navalny supporters, and Navalny, in Kaliningrad in December of 2017. He said it was a memorable moment. However, being associated with Navalny, Cherniuk faced intense pressure from day one.

"Essentially on the day we opened our office, we started facing all of these numerous arrests, raids," Cherniuk said.

Cherniuk, now 24 years old and living in West Philadelphia, said he was in and out of jail for his political work. However, he said he wanted to fight for a democratic society, and he couldn't live with himself if he didn't.


"You're being sent to a prison cell for two weeks for organizing a protest," he said. "But at the same time, I will say that that year was the most meaningful year of my life." 

Cherniuk worked with Navalny's team from May 2017 to April 2018. He describes that as a gap year after high school, and during that time, he started applying for colleges in the United States, where he wanted to study. 

Eventually, he applied and was accepted into Swarthmore College with a full scholarship. A spokesperson for Swarthmore College shared with CBS News Philadelphia that Cherniuk graduated with one of the highest academic designations, being named a 2022 McCabe Scholar

The spokesperson said it is an award that recognizes Swarthmore students "who have exhibited exceptional academic achievement, character and leadership qualities." 

From his home in West Philadelphia, Cherniuk continued to closely follow Navalny's movement. He said, to say he was shocked after his death, was an understatement.

"The overwhelming emotion was like a piece of my soul, has kind of gone forever," Cherniuk said. "Because I grew up with Alexey Navalny as the face of Russian opposition. And as someone who values freedom and democracy, I always kind of looked up to him."


Cherniuk believes Putin is to blame for Navalny's death. However, it is because of Navalny's death, that he believes his movement will continue.

"Navalny's death proves that Putin is an authoritarian," Cherniuk said. "If he has to kill his major opponent whom he fears, then what does it say about his confidence as a leader."

He said he's still fighting Navalny's cause from afar, and said he, and many other Russians, remain hopeful.

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