After Navalny, who are Putin's new opponents

Alexei Navalny is dead and Russia isn't feeling so good. But this does not mean that things will change in the Kremlin. Because, as demonstrated by the expressions of condolence from the Russian people, the opposition to Vladimir Putin exists but, however broad and diversified, it is ultimately still microscopic and therefore irrelevant. That is, it does not represent a problem for the health of the regime, and if anything resembles a bad cold for the Russian leader, something inevitable in the winter seasons.

This is why United Russia, the president's party, will also be able to easily win these elections and this is why the Kremlin will continue, at home and abroad, with its imperialist policy, especially now that Ukraine does not have the strength to repel the Russian army.

It is also worth underlining that, even with Navalny alive (in prison), the cold would not have turned into a fever and Putin would have won anyway. And this is because the Russian people currently see no credible alternatives to the KGB man who became the leader of a nation in disarray. After more than twenty years, not even the money of the pro-Western oligarchs or Yevgeny Prigožin's abortive coup have made a deep dent in Putin's power, which therefore remains firmly in the hands of the president and his narrow family circle.

It is true that, under the snow, oppositions germinate: but these are realities that die as soon as they are born, or that never turn into a counter-power capable of competing with the system. This is demonstrated by the most aggressive opponents against Putin: namely those ultranationalists and neo-Nazis whom Alexei Navalny himself had winked at in the past, who consider the president a traitor to that ideal which aimed to make the Russian Federation a white Slavic ethno-state , and which instead has seen a growth in numbers of Muslims and immigrants, some of whom Putin has even given leading roles (see the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a loyalist to the head of the Kremlin). Hundreds of these ultranationalists have volunteered to fight alongside Ukraine, even as many other neo-Nazi militias fight for Moscow instead; a sign that the ideal of Great Russia trumps any doubts about Vladimir Putin's leadership.

Even the left and the communists are divided internally: the leadership of the Russian Communist Party, for example, approved Putin's invasion, laying the foundation for despondency and even more so for political irrelevance. Many, in fact, fled elsewhere (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan) to avoid being caught and sent to the front.

Liberals and oligarchs, i.e. the country's wealthiest classes, have almost universally opposed Putin's methods and government since time immemorial; and they are certainly against the war. But they are so few, and mostly abroad, that they have never represented an alternative center of power to the Kremlin: neither Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation nor the exiled tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, under whose banners the most “reasonable” and “democratic” movements of the Russian people not only represent two separate currents, but both oppositions have, as is well known, suffered purges and are today more weakened than ever. Likewise, the anarchist cells that proactively sabotaged Moscow's war effort and that support Kiev and the West are little more than ghosts living and operating in the shadows, therefore irrelevant to them politically and in the eyes of of the people.

Finally, there is dissent – ​​more pronounced – within Russia's ethnic regions and republics, such as Muslim-majority Bashkira, where protests erupted in January after Fail activist Alsynov was jailed for inciting to ethnic discord and discrediting the army, while also questioning the war effort and its objectives.

In this regard, statistics say that almost 20 thousand Russians have been arrested for anti-war activities in the last year and hundreds have been convicted following the invasion of Ukraine. Among them was Navalny's ally Ilya Yashin, who was jailed for eight and a half years for live-streaming alleged war crimes in the Ukrainian city of Bucha. Another silenced exponent is the Russian-British Vladimir Kara-Murza, sentenced to 25 years for treason and who, like Navalny, survived two poisoning attempts which left him physically impotent and mentally unstable.

It is true that there are, however, at the government and armed forces level, currents that oppose Vladimir Putin's strategies more than the man himself: they are those who opposed the invasion of Ukraine and who resent those who many Moscow Kremlinologists call it the derogatory term “court”, that is, that nebulous magic circle of close collaborators, relatives and attendants, personal trainers and friends-oligarchs, bodyguards and confessors, who have privileged access to the leader. “They are the ones who fuel the president's antipathies and whims, who encourage his hobbies and antipathies, who suggest he always build new buildings and hockey arenas that produce occupations and bribes for those around him” the expert describes them of Russia Anna Zafesova.

Putin's friends, colleagues, comrades and dacha neighbors have received positions and contracts, becoming billionaires thanks to the state led by their high-ranking comrade. But many others have paid the price and have been silenced, ousted if not directly eliminated. Other old allies of Putin have instead left the magic circle because they preferred to keep themselves at a safe distance.

Ultimately, no one, neither the Russian elites in power nor the opposition at the base, are able to resolve the “Putin dilemma”: even if they could, replacing him and initiating regime change would mean risking overwhelming everything, that is, consigning Russia to chaos and undermine its role as a global power. Nonetheless, letting Vladimir Putin continue with his increasingly aggressive imperialist policy means worsening the health of patient Russia, with the risk that Putin will push himself beyond the point of no return, damaging the country more than he helped it to recover from the rubble of 'Soviet Union.