Russia’s Opposition Confronts a Future Without Navalny
The number of people arrested during the actions in support of Navalny exceeded ten thousand
According to the estimates of the human rights project “Apology of Protest”, during the protest actions in solidarity with Alexei Navalny, more than 130 people suffered from the actions of the security forces..
“The indiscriminate use of physical force and special equipment during the dispersal of protests and during the detention of their participants was widespread and widespread. We have analyzed hundreds of videos and recorded individual and clearly excessive violence, “the Apology of Protest statement reads..
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Navalny’s verdict: arrests and the Kremlin’s reaction
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According to the updated data of OVD-Info, 1188 people, including journalists, were detained at the rallies held the day before in support of Navalny, who was sentenced to 3.5 years in Moscow alone. At the same time, over ten people were beaten. They have all kinds of injuries, from concussion and traumatic brain injury to various fractures and dislocations..
In total, in Russia, the number of detained supporters of Navalny on February 2 was (at the time of this writing) 1,463 people. Thus, for three actions in support of the opposition politician, since January 23, over ten thousand people have been detained in the country..
Human rights activists also drew attention to the statements of detainees about beatings and torture in police stations. People were put on bags on their heads, beaten with truncheons, threatened, exerting psychological pressure, they were detained for hours in paddy wagons without food and water, and were not allowed to go to toilets..
We will remind, the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken previously expressed deep concern of the United States in connection with the sentence passed on to the opposition leader. “Like every citizen of Russia, Mr. Navalny has the rights provided for by the Russian Constitution, and Russia has international obligations to respect equality before the law and the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” Blinken emphasized..
The Secretary of State again called on Moscow to immediately and unconditionally release Alexei Navalny and hundreds of other illegally detained and convicted Russian citizens.
Reputable human rights activists, politicians and experts shared their assessments of the latest events with the Voice of America Russian Service.
Lev Ponomarev: “The authorities only increase the number of their opponents”
The chairman of the national public organization For Human Rights, Lev Ponomarev, in a commentary for the Russian service of the Voice of America, called the police and judicial arbitrariness in relation to those detained during the rallies in support of Alexei Navalny “a monstrous abomination.” In his opinion, what is happening at the same time has nothing to do with legality, and often openly turns into a direct mockery of the person..
“Moreover, sometimes absolutely innocent people who have left the metro“ in the wrong place ”, relatively speaking, suffer,” he added. – Nothing else but the desire to intimidate everyone without exception, this cannot be explained. Such excesses have happened before, but still not to the same extent. Of course, this must be declared publicly. Our organization will raise the issue of the unmotivated brutality shown by the security forces during the arrest of the protesters before the President’s Human Rights Council, where there are still several principled human rights defenders who, I believe, share our point of view on what is happening. “.
Acting with such methods, the authorities are heading towards collapse, and at an accelerated pace, stated Lev Ponomarev: “I don’t know who could have brought them to their senses. At the same time, the authorities only increase the number of their opponents, charging them with negative energy. The Russian people, especially young people, cannot be broken by repression. In this sense, we are no different from other freedom-loving nations. Violence breeds anger, anger breeds backlash. “.
As a result of recent events, the number of people who have a negative attitude towards Putin has only increased, summed up the chairman of the national public organization “For Human Rights”.
Dmitry Gudkov: “The protest will grow in any case”
As opposition politician Dmitry Gudkov admitted in a conversation with the Voice of America Russian Service correspondent, he believed to the last that the authorities had enough reason to make a compromise decision regarding the fate of Alexei Navalny. However, in his opinion, the Kremlin chose the worst possible scenario..
“I experienced shock and anger at the same time,” the politician stressed. – The authorities made a circus out of the court and a disgrace. Obviously, Alexei was tried for daring to survive and return to his country, for becoming popular, for exposing Putin to such an extent that the president’s rating irreversibly rolled down..
This is revenge, which was implemented with demonstrative disregard for people endlessly irritated by the ostentatious wealth of the nouveau riche and state officials against the background of general poverty, Dmitry Gudkov noted. “All those who have eyes and ears are well aware that Putin, in fact, has implemented a single project in more than 20 years of permanent power, having formed a huge repressive apparatus,” he says. – Therefore, one should not be surprised at the bacchanalia of violence on the part of security officials of all stripes, as well as the lack of principle of the judiciary. They work off the money invested in them. And the fact that it is taxpayers’ money does not bother anyone “.
At the same time, the authorities do not think at all about the consequences to which their policies may lead, Dmitry Gudkov believes. At the same time, it seems to him that the Kremlin will not be able to achieve its goals with the help of the instruments it has chosen: “The protest will grow in any case. The authorities can only extinguish the fire for a while, nothing more, but this will not solve the problem. People came out against the government, which does not want to listen and hear them, spits on them during a pandemic. More than 20 million below the poverty line, and they are fattening! .. Reforms are not foreseen, sanctions will continue, with the economy full of seams “.
All together, sooner or later, this will lead to the most serious consequences for both the government and the country as a whole, the politician concluded..
Graham Robertson: “They Hope That Will Calm Down Within The Next Several Months”
Graeme Robertson, professor of political science at the American University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, notes that Alexei Navalny’s deadline is largely within the expectation of most observers..
“This period is substantial enough to get rid of problems with Navalny for a while, but not too long to shock,” says Robertson in a comment for the Russian service of the Voice of America..
According to the professor, in the future, the Kremlin will resort to a certain minimum level of violence, which, from its point of view, is necessary to suppress the protests, since it wants the protests and the issue of Navalny to quickly go off the agenda. “Of course, the level of violence is significant, but still it does not occur on the scale that we saw, for example, in Ukraine or Belarus. I think they hope that things will subside within the next few months. “.
“So, we expect any further surprises not from the Kremlin, but from Navalny and his team. They were incredibly creative in the Russian political sphere, changing the nature of political campaigns, their smart voting strategy changed the nature of elections. And now we are looking to see if they can somehow change the dynamics in the field of protests, ”he adds..
At the same time, according to the professor of political science, the protests are primarily related to the Navalny case, although a number of other factors, including the deterioration in living standards, played a role: “The protests, I think, are primarily about Navalny. If they go beyond the question of him, then they are about lawlessness and corruption on the part of the authorities. This is what remains the main problem. Many commentators talk about the stagnant role of the economy in the protests. Yes, the economy is in stagnation, but at the moment it has been in this state for almost ten years. “.
Apart from condemning the actions of the Russian authorities, Western countries have little leverage over the Russian authorities, says Graham Robertson. “The impact on domestic politics in Russia has never been significant, and I think that now it is probably even smaller than ever. We already have a fairly extensive set of sanctions that will be in effect for a long time. And the majority of Russian oligarchs and leaders have reoriented their financial operations and assets in such a way as to protect themselves from the impact of sanctions. “.
Therefore, personal sanctions against a group of near-Kremlin elites, against which Navalny’s supporters propose to impose sanctions, are necessary and important, but are unlikely to radically change the situation, says Professor Graham Robertson..
Voice of America journalist. Prior to that, she worked for international non-governmental organizations in Washington and London, in the Russian-language version of the Estonian daily newspaper “Postimees” and as a spokesman for the Estonian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Interests – international relations, politics, economics
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