By Edward Steen
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny has disappeared from the prison at Kolchugino 100 km north-east of Moscow. TASS, quoting an unidentified official, said it was to the nearby IK-2 penal colony. Navalny’s supporters using the Russian hashtag #WhereisNavalny wrote on Twitter that the move was aimed at preventing his lawyers and family from reaching him.
“Under various pretexts ’’ Navalny’s lawyers had not been allowed to see him since early yesterday. Only at 2 p.m. were they told that Alexei had left. ’’They refused to answer where he went.”
Dozens of countries have demanded the release of the journalist-politician, saying his imprisonment was unlawful and demanding an investigation into his poisoning with the Russian poison Novichok last year. They also called for the release of hundreds of people arrested since protests against Navalny’s detention in January.
In a statement read out by Poland to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva yesterday, 47 signatory nations including the US, Australia, Canada, and Japan, called actions against the opposition leader “unacceptable and politically motivated.”
“We call on the Russian Federation for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Navalny and of all those unlawfully or arbitrarily detained, including for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, freedom of opinion and expression, and freedom of religion or belief,” the joint statement said.
The magazine Politico has published a revealing interview with Navalny’s chief of staff Leonid Volkov, based in Vilnius : ’’Unpacking Alexei Navalny ’’ , a rare chance to hear in-depth commentary on the goals and tactics of Navalny’s movement. It came two days after Amnesty International declassified Navalny as a “prisoner of conscience,” having found nationalist comments by Navalny in the past not to its taste.
Having drawn everyone’s attention to their position, Politico reported that Amnesty swiftly told everyone to stop paying attention and focus its efforts to secure Navalny’s release. Amnesty denied having fallen victim to a Kremlin influence campaign, but Russian comedians Vovan and Lexus prank-video-called Amnesty Head Julie Verhaar, and over 14 minutes she admitted the decision was a disaster.
So, what would a Navalny-led Russia aim to be? “Canada multiplied by Lithuania,” Volkov said. “Our goal is for Russia to become a proper, regular, European country once again.” Lithuania showed what was possible. But it would take time for Russia to stop being “a protectorate of China” and start being “partner of Europe,” he said. “China treats Russia only as a source of natural resources,’’
The Navalny team doesn’t rule out political surprises, but “there is a high probability Putin will stay in the Kremlin until he dies.” Volkov ruled out a violent revolution, but said revolution of some kind was needed. There was no chance to defeat Putin constitutionally : “Putin did everything to make that impossible,” So, “logically” it would need to be changed in another way “but we will do everything to make this revolution peaceful.”
What would Putin out-of-office look like? “Putinism will be gone when Putin is gone”, Volkov said: “his allies hate each other and are stuck together only because of Putin.” If Putin were to be removed from office, “there is a possibility he will be offered some immunity….which might prevent some blood being shed.”
Crimea : Seven years (today) after Russia invaded Ukraine, there were “no easy answers,” Volkov said. The region needed “a completely new legal framework.” The current constitutional deadlock meant that traditional approaches would involve violence, throwing “millions of people” out of their homes or “taking their passports.”
Volkov floated Andorra — a tax-free principality jointly governed by a bishop in neighbouring Spain and the president of France — as proof that innovative governance was possible. He stepped back from suggesting Russia and Ukraine share Crimea.
Reuters report on Putin’s Black Sea palace: https://www.reuters.com/ article/us-russia-politics- navalny-video-factbox- idUSKBN29P29T
Leonid Volkov on’’ outsmarting Putin ’’ https://www.dw.com/en/navalny- ally-leonid-volkov-our-aim-is- to-outsmart-putin/a-56573967
Leonid Volkov interview 23/09/2020: https://www.bbc.co.uk/ programmes/w3cszc6w