The Navalny affair, a turning point in Russian history

Editorial of the “World”. In the tumultuous history of relations between Russia and the West, the Navalny affair – Alexeï Navalny today signs a courageous platform in The world against Vladimir Putin and international corruption – will probably remain as a new twist, another thorny issue in the long list of those which affect the trust and the relationship between the two “camps”.

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Angela’s visit to Merkel in Moscow on August 20 shows this. Despite the adoption of additional sanctions against the Russian power, taken in response to the use of a prohibited chemical weapon, the German Chancellor did not avoid the anniversary of the poisoning of the opponent to accomplish her first trip in Russia for a year and a half. The Navalny case may be mentioned there, but it will be relegated behind more urgent and strategic subjects: the situation in Afghanistan after the Taliban seizure of power, and especially the upcoming inauguration of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and the United States. Germany.

Also read our editorial: Nord Stream 2: European solidarity put to the test of a gas pipeline

Two days before M’s arrivalme Merkel, the Russian Foreign Ministry released a long memo dedicated to the anniversary of “The emergency hospitalization of Russian blogger Alexeï Navalny”. This – in fact the attempted assassination of the first opponent of Vladimir Putin – is described as a vast Western plot, long prepared and in which Germany takes the lead. One of the objectives of this manipulation: “Influence the electoral campaign” legislative elections planned, let us remember, more than a year after the poisoning of Alexei Navalny.

Parallel reality

This stance of denial is nothing new. On a number of subjects, such as the crash of flight MH17 over Ukraine, the Russian authorities have long since decided to barricade themselves behind the walls of a parallel reality. By dint of being repeated, paranoia has become a state doctrine. And that the Europeans are forced to live with it is nothing new or surprising.

In the history of contemporary Russia, on the other hand, the Navalny affair will remain as a major turning point. It is not only a question here of the Navalny man, of his courage and of his political positions, but of the actions taken against him by the Russian state.

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Before August 20, 2020, the regime of Vladimir Putin considered it more useful to keep this opponent in the shadows, out of the legal political field. After August 20, the men in command of Russia saw his death as a better option.

Before August 20, Vladimir Putin’s regime sought popular support in the first place, using fear only as a recourse. Since August 20, the proportions have reversed. Power no longer seeks to convince the fringe of public opinion which has turned away from it, but only to intimidate it. The leeway to engage in politics (or journalism, or any citizen action) outside of the Kremlin’s control has disappeared.

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Russia is not yet in a situation comparable to neighboring Belarus, where the regime of Alexander Lukashenko is almost at war against its people. But, as in Minsk, the priority of the power in place is its own survival, whatever the cost. This finding is of great concern to Europeans.

Read the report: In Minsk, the lost illusions of the “square of change”

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