Russia’s President Vladimir Putin speaks on Pro-Navalny protests | World News | WION
Chairman; Democracy Renewal Initiatives and former World Chess Champion – on Russian protests, sanctions and an article by Grigory Yavlinsky
Last weekend in Russia was again a protest: on Valentine’s Day, people went out into the evening streets with flashlights, candles and other light sources to express solidarity with the imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
The purpose of the action “Love is stronger than fear”, announced by Navalny’s headquarters, was to support the wife of a Russian political prisoner, Yulia Navalnaya, who was separated from her husband at the airport when Navalny returned from Germany to Russia on January 17. Largely due to the efforts of Yulia Navalnaya, her husband was taken to Germany for treatment after poisoning with poison from the Novichoka family in August last year..
They shone in the sky, in solidarity with Navalny, and in many countries of the world. The fate of the Russian protests is closely followed by those who have found themselves in political emigration – in particular, the chairman of the Renew Democracy Initiative and the 13th world chess champion Garry Kasparov.
In an exclusive interview with the Russian Voice of America Service, Garry Kasparov spoke about the hottest Russian topics: street protests, the brutality of the Russian authorities in response to these protests, as well as the controversy surrounding the recent article by the founder of the Yabloko party, Grigory Yavlinsky, who criticized Alexei Navalny.
Danila Galperovich: The Russian authorities are responding to the latest protests with unprecedented brutality. Thousands of their participants were detained, hundreds were arrested, many were beaten. Reuters, citing unnamed Russian officials, issued a message promising to intensify the crackdown. Why do you think the Kremlin is going to suppress so harshly??
Garry Kasparov: We must be aware that for them there is no limit to unpunished cruelty, I emphasize – unpunished. There has never been a blood allergy. Today the regime is at a stage when all other methods of governing the country, except for direct violence, are essentially being archived. Even the traditional Putin mythology of legitimacy that has developed around him does not really work either. Therefore, for self-preservation, the Russian dictatorship today will use its last resource, its traditional resource – violence. It will be involved in propaganda, it can also be called intellectual violence..
D.G .: It seems that official Moscow is severing communication not only with people inside the country, but also with external partners – last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia is ready to sever relations with the European Union. Then there were many interpretations of what Lavrov said, but the meaning actually remained unchanged. How do you feel about this statement?
G.K .: As for ultimatums and threats against the West, I would, of course, very much like to clarify with Lavrov: when he talks about a break with Europe, is it a break with it and the oligarchs as well? Does this mean that Abramovich and Usmanov will also return to Russia? How far the gap will go is very interesting to me. If in the West there were now political leaders of the caliber of Churchill, Truman, Reagan, Thatcher, it would be high time, as they say in poker, to check for bluffs and ask a head-on question. How far are they really willing to go? Will Solovyov go to Crimea or, perhaps, to Chechnya to see Kadyrov instead of going to his villa in Italy on Lake Como? Europe has come to the point where it needs to ask these questions. In this regard, Borrell’s visit to Moscow was very indicative – it was completely ineptly organized, because bureaucrats are slow to react to events. It is clear that it was necessary to cancel it or demand an ultimatum to meet with Navalny, tying her to her arrival in Moscow. The arrival showed Putin and his entourage that Europe continues to trail behind events and play by inertia. The harsh criticism and demand for Borrell’s resignation by dozens of MEPs show that the mood is, in fact, changing. But for now, Putin is convinced that everyone will make noise and calm down, that there will be Nord Stream anyway, and the sanctions will apply to officials of the second or third level..
D.G .: You mentioned sanctions. What measures could the West take in this case so that official Moscow backs down – both in violence against its own citizens and in aggressive rhetoric about the West itself??
G.K .: This is not about demanding the West to directly help the Russian opposition – the West must stop helping the Putin regime. The money that Putin uses to strengthen his own power, to maintain the gigantic army of riot police and the National Guard, prosecutors and propagandists, does not appear out of thin air, but from oil and gas, for which Europe pays. We see that traces of Putin’s actions to undermine European democracies are visible from the Baltic states to the UK. Then there is Africa, and the Maduro regime in Venezuela is kept up only thanks to Putin. If you look at a map of the world and mark all these hot spots, it is difficult to find one that does not have fingerprints from Putin’s people. It is necessary to start from the center of the web, and here it is necessary to inflict a financial blow, because a foreign policy defeat will inevitably hit Putin’s stability in Russia with a ricochet. As soon as this riot police shield begins to crumble due to the fact that resources will disappear, the situation will undoubtedly go haywire. Therefore, the West is required to develop a clear strategy that would curb Putin’s appetites by at least limiting, if not depriving, his fabulous oil and gas revenues. Western countries have a set of tools – this is not only the “Magnitsky law”, but also laws on money laundering. But the question is in the presence of political will, and this will is clearly not enough in the collective West. Moreover, we see, using the example of Germany, how the leadership of this country makes a bunch of reservations that business is separate, and human rights and international treaties are separate. We also see President Steinmeier recently scandalously speaking out about the need to complete the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, because Germany has to pay for the 20 million killed Soviet citizens in World War II. And the fact that there were many Ukrainians among them is, apparently, Steinmeier either does not know, or does not interest him. This is exactly how Putin lives, and as long as Putin is in power, there can be no changes in Russia. And there is no need to be afraid of these words – “regime change in Russia”, because Putin’s dictatorship is an existential threat to the whole world.
D.G .: How do you feel about the tactics chosen by Alexei Navalny, his current situation and the plans of his associates that are now known??
G.K .: In fact, of course, Navalny’s act is heroic. He galvanized the protest movement. It is clear that what happened on the streets of Russian cities on January 23 and 31, February 2 and 14 is, of course, connected with the name of Navalny. His poisoning, attempted murder, his return to Russia, arrest, shameful trial, a film about “Putin’s palace” – all the activities of Navalny and his team led to a sharp change in the situation in Russia, relations between the government and the active part of society. But today this protest movement does not have the resource to sweep away this power. Navalny’s associates are trying not to even manage the process, but to somehow direct it, and it seems to me important that now they have begun to do what many of us have been doing for a long time, namely, promoting the sanctions list. This is where you can deal serious blows to Putin’s oligarchy, and I think that it is the situation with Navalny that will help move this cart off the ground. That is, before it was about small fish, but now the West is ready to talk about the figures of the first echelon. Navalny’s freedom and, most likely, his life depends on how soon the Putin regime goes to the dustbin of history.
D.G .: You probably were not spared the discussion around the article by Grigory Yavlinsky, who sharply opposed both Putin and Navalny. What do you think was the meaning of this speech of his?
G.K .: Grigory Alekseevich is doing exactly what he has been doing for many years, for decades, namely, he is engaged, not even by draining, but simply by neutralizing any protest. Yavlinsky, like Zhirinovsky and Zyuganov, has been at the helm of his party for nearly three decades, longer than Putin. Yavlinsky’s audience is smaller, it is not as large as that of Zyuganov and Zhirinovsky, but it is clear that Yabloko is a systemic party, the so-called “systemic opposition”: it is not possible to get into the Duma, there is clearly not enough resources, but apparently now some hopes dawned. It is no coincidence that the Yabloko Party Bureau supported its only leader, proving that Yabloko is Yavlinsky, his point of view is the only one, although we have heard some Yabloko people saying that it is wrong to have a discussion with a person in prison. These theses were voiced by Yavlinsky primarily to a Western audience. The Kremlin is mobilizing all the resources that are within its reach, which, of course, includes Yavlinsky himself, to discredit Navalny. I have a lot of disagreements with Navalny both on Crimea and on many other issues, but at the moment it is immoral to dispute with Navalny. It is no coincidence that Yavlinsky’s theses were picked up by Western journalists – without malicious intent. Indeed, Navalny said that, Navalny said that, but focusing on this now, the main task is being fulfilled – the Kremlin is trying to bring down the global support for Navalny. I recently performed at Al Jazeera with Nina Khrushcheva, and these questions were asked to me. It is clear that Yavlinsky’s actions are connected, perhaps, with some vague expectations that Yabloko will be allowed somewhere. They will not be allowed anywhere, of course, and let’s not forget that the Yabloko party lives and exists in this political space only because the Kremlin wants it. There is no political project in Russia that could develop or even exist without the Kremlin seeing any benefit in this..
D.G .: If you could now advise the Biden administration on what to do about Russia – what would you suggest??
G.K .: The Biden administration, it seems to me, has a fairly clear idea of what exactly they can do in order to achieve a result. First, the current stage of the sanctions actions must be brought to a logical conclusion. America remains the leader of the free world, and it is clear that if America begins to act toughly according to its own laws, then I believe that both the FBI and the CIA have enough information on everyone – from Putin and down the pyramid. Find money, freeze it, and demand the same harsh actions from the Europeans. Look, there was a coup in Myanmar – in less than a day, assets that the generals could dispose of were arrested. With Russia, unfortunately, there are ongoing conversations that it is necessary to seek consensus on some issues. There are no such questions, on all issues Russia is an antagonist. Myths about interaction on Iran and North Korea? Putin is interested in fomenting any conflict. Today, Biden has a pretty strong position, because the Russian topic has become part of American politics through Trump. And here, too, it would be very important to see it through to the end, there is no need to be afraid of discrediting the American presidency. On the contrary, the disclosure of all Trump’s ties with Russian intelligence, Russian oligarchs will simply show the whole world that America is able to get rid of even such a terrible threat that Trump posed to American democracy.
Reporter for the Russian Voice of America Service in Moscow. Collaborates with Voice of America since 2012. For a long time he worked as a correspondent and host of programs for the BBC Russian Service and Radio Liberty. Specialization – international relations, politics and legislation, human rights.
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