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‘Putin is turning his main threat into a martyr’: Will attack on Navalny, journalists and 5,700 detained Russians backfire?

‘Putin is turning his main threat into a martyr’: Will attack on Navalny, journalists and 5,700 detained Russians backfire?


The State Department says the United States is reviewing what actions they can take in response the the coup in Burma and the unrest in Russia following the sentencing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. (Feb. 2)

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AP Domestic

MOSCOW – To his supporters, anti-corruption figure Alexei Navalny, whose detention has sparked massive protests across Russia, was sent to prison for the crime of daring to dwell to pronounce the tale President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to poison him. 

“Putin is turning his main threat into a martyr, a roughly Russian Nelson Mandela,” said Jaka Bizilj, the director of the Berlin-based humanitarian community Cinema for Peace Foundation, regarding South Africa’s anti-apartheid hero and old-fashioned president.

In August, Bizilj organized for Navalny to be evacuated by private plane to Germany after he fell into a coma in the Siberian metropolis of Omsk. Russia says there is no proof the longtime Kremlin critic was poisoned. Nonetheless German scientists distinct Navalny had been uncovered to the Russian military grade nerve agent Novichok, a claim backed by the U.S. and several European international locations. An investigation by Bellingcat, a digital research organization, traced the poisoning to Russian security agents.

‘You can’t jail your total country’:  Navalny will get 2.5 years in Russian prison

Five months after the near-fatal attack, Navalny returned Moscow in mid-January. Simply sooner than takeoff from a Berlin airport, he posted a video to Instagram of his wife quoting a line from a popular Russia crime movie: “Carry us some vodka, boy. We’re flying dwelling.” Navalny was immediately arrested at the border. Russian authorities said that by in search of medical treatment abroad he violated the phrases of his parole in connection with an embezzlement case from 2014 that is widely considered to be politically motivated. 

For several weeks, tens of thousands of Russians have taken to the streets — and ice, one demonstration was held on a frozen lake in Kazan in southwest at -45 degrees Fahrenheit — across the country to demand Navalny’s release. More unrest is anticipated after Navalny was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison on Feb. 3. 

“(Putin’s) only way is killing of us,” Navalny said as the consider read the verdict. “For as considerable as he pretends to be a great geopolitician, he’ll depart down in history as a poisoner.” As Navalny stood in a glass cage guarded by court docket bailiffs he pointed to his wife Yulia on the other facet of the court docket and drew a heart on the glass wall. 


Tens of thousands took to the streets across Russia on Sunday to demand the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, a continuation of nationwide protests that have rattled the Kremlin. At least 5,000 have been detained by police. (Jan. 31)

AP Domestic

Analysts say the demonstrations characterize a burgeoning state circulation that is growing exponentially and is spurred on by myriad issues coming to a head including increased economic hardship, frustration with the coronavirus pandemic, and the graceful scale of graft that for decades has been perpetrated by Putin and Russia’s political elite – uncovered by anti-corruption campaigners such as Navalny. 

“This is qualitatively various from what we now have seen sooner than,” said Robert Legvold, an knowledgeable on Russia and professor emeritus at Columbia University, noting that the protests have took place no longer honest across Russia but across ideological teams (from pro-democracy reformers to conservative nationalists). “A very substantial portion of that population no longer regards the authorities as legitimate,” he said. 

Or no longer it is no longer complicated to gawk why. 

After Navaly was arrested, his Anti-Corruption Foundation released a two-hour video investigation on YouTube detailing a luxurious mansion on Russia’s southern Black Sea coast purportedly belonging to Putin. The video alleges that it sits on a private estate 39 instances the scale of Monaco, is the largest private dwelling in Russia and was paid for with “the largest bribe in history.” The property has a theater, a casino, a church, a hockey rink, an “aquatic” disco and a hookah lounge with a pole-dancing stage. Putin denies proudly owning the opulent palace and Russian billionaire Arkady Rotenberg has since stepped forward to say the 20,000-acre estate in fact belongs to him, no longer Putin.

Nonetheless Rotenberg and Russia’s leader are shut. For a time they had been judo sparring partners. Putin’s official annual salary is about $150,000, according to official figures, a relatively modest sum for a man mechanically seen wearing $60,000 watches. And various watchdogs, investigation teams and anti-corruption campaigners have estimated Putin’s personal wealth to be someplace between $70 billion and $200 billion.  

No person seems to grasp how exactly Putin, 68, acquired all this wealth. 

A few of the protesters in Russia have been expressing their explore on the matter by mocking Putin by bringing gold-colored bathroom brushes to the demonstrations. 

“All the issues that is happening (with Navalny) is illegal,” said Moscow resident Darya Grechishkina, 20, an place of enterprise manager. “Navalny is in jail because he is Putin’s personal enemy and Putin has unlimited energy. I effect no longer belief the justice machine in Russia.”

Grechishkina said that she and most of her associates are afraid “to even depart for a walk out of doors” because of the authorities’ intense crackdown on the protests. Police and security services have intimidated, beaten and detained activists, students and anyone who appears vaguely connected to the unrest. They’ve ordered social media companies to take down all posts calling for of us to participate in the demonstrations and threatened them with hefty fines and other punishments for failure to comply.

Journalist jailed for a retweet

Almost 5,700 of us have been detained across Russia, according to OVD-Information, an autonomous monitoring community that tracks political persecution in Russia. At least 80 journalists have been arrested, including Sergei Smirnov, the editor of MediaZona, an autonomous web content based by participants of the Russian punk rock band Pussy Revolt

Art of dissent: Protesting Russia’s Putin with Pussy Revolt

MediaZona’s reporting focuses on issues of human rights and criminal justice.

Smirnov was arrested for retweeting a post on Twitter that poked fun at his apparent resemblance to a Russian rock musician. The post also referred to a planned pro-Navalny state that integrated a date but no longer the location or any other details. 


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“He’s calm because he’s innocent. He is upset that the court docket made an unfair decision,” said Fyodor Sirosh, Smirnov’s lawyer. “Of us are angry because they can’t get justice and can’t get a fair trial.” Smirnov was detained whereas on a walk with his 5-year-old-fashioned son. He was sentenced to 25 days “administrative arrest,” meaning there is no longer any trial. 

Russia is no stranger relating to harassing and even killing journalists and opposition voices. In fact, 58 journalists have been murdered in Russia since 1992, according to the Committee to Hiss Journalists; 28 since Putin ascended to the presidency in 2000. The list of excessive-profile Putin critics and old-fashioned Kremlin insiders, spies and energy brokers who are the victims of unsolved murders, grisly poisonings, suspicious deaths, as properly as lighter kinds of persecution and ailing-treatment, is also long. 

One of the doctors at the Russian hospital in Omsk where Navalny was treated after his poisoning has died, the hospital said Thursday.

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Polina Sadovskaya, literary and free expression community PEN America’s Eurasia director, said that the Russian authorities is at reveal attempting to stop “of us (from) understanding the scale of the protests and it seems fancy they want to build a lid on what’s happening suitable now and withhold more of the general public from taking to the streets.”

Sadovskaya said she is concerned Russia’s federal media watchdog “can literally power the media to take down any information that they glean false and threaten media stores that they can be closed in the occasion that they don’t comply. And there’ll be more of these laws.”

‘Original stage of the crisis for Putin’

Arkady Dubnov, an analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center, a overseas affairs mediate tank based in Russia’s capital, described “the tendencies around Navalny” as a “new stage of the crisis for Putin’s regime.” He said Navalny’s video of “Putin’s palace” was especially troubling and dangerous because it made youthful Russians laugh at him.  

“This is the worst roughly delegitimization of energy,” Dubnov said. 


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He added that when Russia holds nationwide elections in September it seems probably, because of the depth and scale of the anger underpinning the protests, that Putin “will for the first time in his life have to actively participate in the campaign… The authorities will have to work very hard to withhold his United Russia Party from defeat.”

Then again, for now, the sweeping police crackdown has had small impact on Putin’s overall approval rating, a stare by autonomous pollster Levada Center showed Thursday. The ballot, conducted in the lead as a lot as Navalny’s sentencing, showed a 1% drop in Putin’s approval rating to 64%, although his popularity among youthful respondents dropped 17% to 51%, and Navalny’s supporters say that even autonomous polls can’t be relied on because many Russians are fearful of speaking out against Putin. 

What will Biden effect?

Tranquil, Vladimir Ashurkov, a Navalny ally and London-based govt director of his Anti-Corruption Foundation, said there is “no silver bullet” by way of coming up with ways to steady Navalny’s release, reform Russia’s justice machine, make clear that media freedoms or persuade Putin to leave the place of enterprise he has held for two decades. 

Ashurkov honest lately called on President Joe Biden, who has characterized Navalny’s detention as a “matter of deep concern to us,” to sanction 35 participants of Putin’s internal circle, including eight Russian oligarchs, to pile stress on the Kremlin. These sanctions would depart beyond what Washington has already imposed on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine’s Crimea, election interference and for other malicious cyber activities. 

Alexei Navalny: Sanctioning Putin’s cronies is only way to power change in Russia

“Putin is a tactician, no longer a strategist. When he feels ample stress he’ll change his decision (about Navalny) and then the lawyers will glean a pretext to let him depart,” he said. 

Ashurkov said that after Navalny recuperated in Germany there was by no means any doubt that he would return to Russia despite fears for his safety and liberty. 

“Or no longer it is a moral selection. His life’s work is in Russia. The organization that he built is in Russia. His millions of supporters are in Russia. He has done nothing wrong. Why mustn’t he return to his dwelling country?” he said. 

‘Larger struggling’

Nonetheless Moscow resident Tatiana Ivanova, 71, had various take. 

“If we stare back in history nothing factual ever came of a revolution in Russia. I am skeptical the protests will get us what we want. No person affords up energy easily and if the energy is larger, it almost always means larger struggling for ordinary of us,” she said. 

And Sasha Krasny, 47, a philanthropy consultant who emigrated in 1990 to Original York, where she composed lives, from the old-fashioned Soviet Union, said Putin was doing it all wrong. 

“He is capturing himself in the foot by attempting to poison Navalny and imprison him. Because the more he does that the more Navalny is changing into popular,” she said. 

Contributing: Arthur Bondar in Moscow, Claire Thornton in Washington

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‘Putin is turning his main threat into a martyr’: Will attack on Navalny, journalists and 5,700 detained Russians backfire?