Russia, who was Navalny: Putin's true opponent

Aleksej Navalny, a 47-year-old Russian lawyer (born on 4 June 1976), has mobilized a small but decidedly active and alert part of the country around an almost pre-political theme, which in Russia, however, is becoming more political every day : the corruption of the Putin-era ruling class. An issue which, more than civil and political rights which are largely hindered if not denied, and which is closely connected to the reduction of the economic strength of the middle classes, manages to bring together a part of civil society.

Alexei Navalny, Putin's opponent in Russia – March 27, 2017VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images

The anti-corruption foundation

Navalny founded his Anti-Corruption Foundation in 2011. Through the blog and some related projects he collects corruption complaints that citizens report. The staff of over 90 lawyers verifies, controls, calculates and evaluates the amount of public money wasted. The process follows.

To evaluate the real extent of this embryonic “movement” it is important to start from the numbers: Russia has just over 140 million inhabitants (2013 source World Bank), it is estimated that in all Russian cities on March 24th they took part in anti-war demonstrations -corruption between 60 thousand and 100 thousand people in 82 different cities.

Navalny: here is the documentary against Medvedev and corruption

Because it is an important protest, despite the modest numbers
The numerical size of the protest demonstrated in March, and all in all also this one in June, is therefore still modest. But it is very significant.

Firstly because Russia has not expressed significant public dissent towards Vladimir Putin's power network since 2011-2012.

Very young, educated and active: nothing but hamsters

Secondly because Navalny appeals to the more modern part of Russian society; that educated middle classconnected to the Internet (the network reaches around 70 million Russians, not all of them, obviously part of Navalny's audience), which wants to be public opinion, which exercise a critical spirit typically bourgeois-Western that Russia has rarely known under the Tsars, under communism and in Putin's nationalist post-imperialism.

And that, especially this time it is represented by the younger ones. As all the observers and reporters present in Moscow in March had noticed, and even more so on Monday 12 June in the various Russian cities, one of the surprises of these demonstrations was the participation of very youngreally high school as well as university students.

While in 2012 and 2013, mainly adults from the educated and cosmopolitan middle class, in their twenties, thirties and forties, took to the streets. In short, perhaps a new generation is emerging ready to support the opposition to the Kremlin autocrat, who had called them. with contempt in recent months: “hamsters on the computer”. Now they try to deny it, they no longer run in circles in front of the screens in their rooms. They go out into the streets and say they are not with Putin.

Also because more than computers, they use computers smartphones, which are yes computers. but mobile, precisely: and they allow connection and movement together, presence in other places and, perhaps, participation.

Calling them hamsters, basically, Putin has proven himself oldnot to grasp.

Although, as Paolo Garimberti recalled in March on the Republic, when Putin removed his right-hand man, Sergei Ivanov, from office in August 2016, and with him a series of local governors, the recurring accusation for all was their failure to provide the president with reliable information on what the public thinks. people of Russia. In short, Putin has the hint of some creaking; he is not alone paranoia as an autocrat.

Thirdly, the protest, although a minority, is significant because it has a clear and precise objective: corruption of government leadership.
An objective that lends itself to the production of watchwords based on the facts being reported; it lends itself to demonstrating the nature of Putin's power with facts: so much so that it is an investigation published in a video – a kind of self-managed counter-journalism – that is driving the protest.

navalny-court putin russiaA Tweet by Alexei Navalny from the Moscow court, March 27, 2017@Navalny/Twitter

In an article on the blog of New York Review of Books released in February 2016, Amy Knight summarized some of the most recent corruption cases of the power group that revolves around Putin, revealed by Navalny: Russia: The End of the Illusion?

As Masha Gessen wrote in January 2016 on New Yorker, in a profile of the activities of Navalny and the Anti-Corruption Foundation, the thing that seems strangest is that Navalny spends months as a free man, between one arrest and another. The other leaders of the mass protests of 2011 and 2012 fared worse, some much worse.
Boris Nemtsovliberal, it was murdered in 2015 in Moscow.
Sergei Udaltsovthe leader of the radical left, is in prison on a 4 1/2-year sentence for an alleged plot to overthrow Russia's government.
Garry Kasparov, the famous chess champion who became a politician in opposition to Putin, is in exile abroad.

The presidential elections

Navalny has announced that he will run in the presidential elections in March 2018. Elections that will almost certainly crown Putin for another six years.

However, the president's electoral consensus is still very high, above all thanks to international activism (aggression against the rebel “satellite” Ukraine, the illegal occupation and annexation of Crimea, the intervention in Syria alongside the bloodthirsty dictator Assad, the explicit opposition to the democratic leadership in the United States, to the point of having the army of hackers intervene to favor Trump) which gave the Russian people back the belief that they matter in the world, after the “humiliations” suffered following the end of the Union Soviet.

Yet Navalny is disturbing, to the point that, according to sources close to Putin cited by Guardian in March, the president's staff would have decided in any case not to let Navalny arrive at the electoral appointment between the candidates.

In 2013, Navalny was convicted of an alleged “embezzlement”, which Western critics and the Russian opposition say was orchestrated by the authorities. The sentence was suspended – so Navalny did not go to prison – but the criminal conviction prevents him from running for office.
In 2015, Navalny's Progress Party was unable to participate in the regional elections, despite having collected the sufficient number of signatures.

(Below the video investigation against Medvedev in full version)

(This article was first published on March 27 and updated on March 28, 2017 and June 13, 2017)