Alternatives & Analyses: The analogous Kremlin has little against the digital Navalny

Following Alexei Navalny’s arrest at the airport in Moscow, it became clear that the Kremlin is facing a tougher adversary – Navalny is no Khodorkovsky, nor Kasparov. He is a political street fighter, immune to Putin’s repressive machine bullying ready to spend months in prison under all possible phoney pretexts. He survived an attempt on his life in a miraculous redivivus. On top of all, he defies the gravity of common sense and survival instinct by returning home, demonstrating his moral superiority. 

He seems a strategic player, with adequate planning and well thought moves, who controls the agenda and puts the Kremlin on the defence. 

Vladimir Putin tried to marginalize him, ignore and isolate him, kill him, all in vain. Navalny returned from the dead with the halo of the first real threat to Putin’s rule, his nightmare in a long ripe country for a leader that could stand up to the Tzar. 

Alexei the Rebel and his followers will not necessarily gain seats in the next Gosduma as the change will not happen through elections. He systematically delegitimizes Putin to a degree when allegiances in Russia’s elite could start to shift, and then everyone sees the Tzar weak and panicked, therefore vincible. The latest investigation of the Tzar’s palace at the Black sea broke all records.

Changes in Russia do not track majorities in opinion polls, so it is pointless to deduce pending power tectonics via detectors of pubic mood.

Those who follow post-Soviet Russia cannot help but notice that even the official media has grudgingly started to cover Navalny’s story, having a choice. 

The Russian opposition has finally obtained a leader capable of consolidating it and presenting a direct challenge to Putin’s analogue.

Just in 24 hours, Navalny’s video investigation on Putin’s summer palace on the Black sea broke all records – more than 24 million viewers, forcing Putin’s spokesperson to appeal in desperation – “do not donate” money to Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Fund. 

Almost all Kremlin’s propaganda assets have been called to arms to fight back Navalny’s rise in popularity, instead of their usual occupation of destabilizing the West. This investigation’s timing is perfect – President Trump’s exit and the new POTUS’s inauguration. President Biden lambasted Putin for arresting Navalny and seems to be ready to expand the sanctioned Russian politicians and oligarchs’ list. Navalny’s ally Vladimir Arushkov

already suggested a list of 8 of Putin’s closest circles for Western sanctions, featuring Roman Abramovich, Denis Borotnik, son of the head of the FSB, Andrey Kostin, son of the CEO of VTB, Dmitry Patrushev, son of the Secretary of Russia’s Security Council, Igor Shuvalov and the head of the State Development Co.

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Kremlin’s trolls and hackers wage a fierce battle on social media to help the Russian president survive the seemingly inevitable loss of face, the new wave of sanctions and the coming freeze in US-Russia relations. 

The anti-Navalny campaign is led personally by the Presidential spokesman Peskov, who, in desperation to ward off attacks on his boss, returned to Soviet-style witchhunt with the CIA as the evil hand behind all troubles.

Since this thesis is indefensible in court, the Kremlin instructed Russian courts not to accept Navalny’s complaints against Peskov about damage to his honour and dignity. If he goes to court, the thesis about Navalny’s CIA connection will collapse and discredit the Kremlin even more dramatically. That’s why the propaganda turned to virtual reality with memes and rumors, which flooded the social networks and the internet with Kremlin agitprop. 

Russia’s controlled media abroad were quick to echo the Moscow HQ’s tribulations. The gameplan linking Navalny to the CIA is a case of dire crisis management exercise with a profoundly misplaced message. 

Does it mean – that had Navalny been a CIA agent, Kremin could have executed him in daylight?! Or in the reverse mode – if poisoned with novichok, then Navalny must be a US spy? Or the adage that the CIA’s habit is of poisoning its agents ?! 

Easy to pick the scarce intelligence behind these quick fix propaganda, but equally easy to detect panic. 

The Kremlin initially tried to downgrade Navalny that he is neither Sakharov, nor Benigno Aquino, nor Ayatollah Khomeini, not having their popularity?! 

Why bother to unleash this unprecedented campaign if Navalny was so unpopular? Why dispatch hundreds of armed policemen at minus 20 degrees and arrested him “at the border” to cut off access to the Russian public? 

Why arrange for a mockery ‘trial’ in a courtroom in a police station, breaking all conceivable red lines of legality, with 30-day detention until parole review?

Putin’s media cohort is hammering the narrative that Navalny’s attack is against Russia, not against a corrupt president, reverberating the old Mayakovsky maxim: “when we say Putin, we mean Russia” and vice versa. 

The brazen Soviet-style agitprop – “the whole world and progressive humanity despises him” betrays the fear of a dying regime. Navalny is not just Putin’s political opponent; he has become a victim, a martyr, and a symbol of Russian political life’s dehumanization. Behind the failing ideological and propaganda smokescreen emerges the image of a brutal new Stalin who exterminates his opponents.

Russia cherishes its martyrs and Navalny is on the way of becoming one, with the aura of a victim of vindictive Tzar, having returned from the dead. Many Russians would read – the Rebel is God sent with a mission. 

Repressions will further escalate sympathy for Alexei, giving him living legend status. Suffice it to say that even the pro-government media acknowledges that Navalny has split Russia into two, which implicitly recognizes him as the non-Putin half leader.

Suddenly, Vladimir Putin’s arrogance and hubris have failed him, unable to resolve the problem – Alexei refuses to succumb to the sovereign’s will and emigrate. He stays on against all offs and an immediate threat to his life. 

Putin’s entourage tried and failed, and things got out of hand. Few expect Putin’s regime to fall overnight or Navalny’s opposition to win seats in the State Duma in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Russians do not vote for martyrs. 

Putin bets on his Crimea’s strategy – that in time things will return to normal – as the West has more vital interests than the fate of Russia’s opposition leader. 

He has succeeded before, trusting the Real Politik driven politicians, will put interests first, values second. And he has a point, judging from Germany continuous support for the Nord Stream and the West’s lenient approach to the Turk Stream.  

But each autocracy has its end line of self-negation and Putin has arrived at it. The poisoning of Navalny catalyzes the process leading to his exit.

Ilian Vassilev

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One thought on “Alternatives & Analyses: The analogous Kremlin has little against the digital Navalny

  • 24th January 2021 at 4:33 pm
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    Очеизваден руски театър според мен. Първо Навални оставен свободно да се лекува в Германия. После решава да се прибере знаейки, че ще бъде арестуван…И сега Путин с удоволствие и доста шумно и показно му вдига рейтинга… Или Путин остарява и оглупява, но все пак се съмнявам сам да управлява, а и се съмнявам да е загубил разсъдъка си като Байдън, така че излиза че това е един добре режисиран театър с главен герой Навални. Но нали все пак трябва да се покаже, че има някаква опозиция в Русия, някаква уж демокрация като в САЩ, а какво по-хубаво ако сам си я създадеш и контролираш. Познавайки близкият манталитет на руснаците и подобността на всички събития в България на тези в Русия за последните 32 години, май няма да съм далече от истината, че след години Навални ще бъдат разкрит. Както лъсна истината за “дясната опозиция” по време на българският преход. И защо изведнъж му притрябва на Путин да вдига мижавият рейтинг на Навални, че той беше никой до тогава, никога не е имал шанс срещу Путин. Винаги трябва да се гледа интереса, и от там ще стигнем до реалните изводи. 🙂

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