It happened. I’m not a predictor, but all those things that happened last week and the week before were quite obvious to me. Vladimir Putin did what he does regularly – make a copy of decisions and actions taken by Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus, but to adapt them to the larger size of political and social life of the Russian Federation. Political trials are quite common thing in Belarus, and in Russia either. But Navalny’s case is absolutely different thing. And here is a big mistake of him.
Alexey Navalny had a long way from anti-corruption lawyer to the leader of Russian opposition. He was asked a lot of questions and there were a lot of doubts about him. But during this fight he has created the system that reminds the political party more than any “legitimate” by Putin’s laws party that now exists. He has a system of regional representatives created during elections of 2018, system of crowdfunding, a lot of allies, international lawyers that represent him and his clients in European Court. He has his own media. Just believe me, an absolute majority of young people of Russia prefer to watch videos on his YouTube channel rather than any governmental media. He made it by himself being against the merciless machine of Kremlin. That describes him as an outstanding person. But he couldn’t have made to himself the status of martyr. Putin did.
2020 was a really tough year for everyone, it was a tragedy for all humanity, and I don’t want to compare deaths and broken lives across the world, but you can see in my articles that in Russia we had no governmental support during the pandemic. And its decisions related to healthcare policy lead to tragic consequences for the majority of population of the country. During this year we found the light of truth and hope in Alexey. A lot of people who had their concerns about him started to support him and his ideas. But what happened next? We saw that a person that was an avatar of truth and hope for a brighter future was poisoned by a law-enforcement agency. With a sinking heart we watched his process of recovery. We were so happy when he recovered from coma and started to speak on cameras. We were so proud when he started to speak with European leaders and European Council. We felt triumph when his team published investigations about a team of poisoners and Putin’s palace. We, people of Russia that believe in freedom, human rights, democracy and progress, felt ourselves recognized, we had our voice, we had a representative. But now we feel total despair. The night of Navalny’s trial was a moment of national shame and despair. Every person that understands at least something in law got shocked from such an opened disrespect to everything that represents the modern world.
You can be sure that all those terrible things that you hear about rough actions of Russian police are truth. I moved to Saint-Petersburg, and now I live in a small hotel nearby the central part of the city. I had a conversation with the receptionist. He told that during the protests of 23rd and 31st of January even simple tourists that can prove that they live in the hotels couldn’t access the central part of the city, take their belongings, check in or out. Some of them were arrested and beaten. Protesters are being tortured all across the country. Our reality now is a life in police chaos.
“The world is black and white now. There is no gray”. These are words of Leonid Volkov, one of the representatives of Navalny’s team. In the recent years we had discussions among oppositionists about the place of police and law-enforcement at all in the political life of Russia. We had points of view that officers are just told to do something. They are not guilty of actions taken against the protesters. They are just doing their job and have their orders. Now it does not work anymore. The decay of the law-enforcement system was very obvious to me a long time ago. That’s why I decided not to work there even by my major education I should have become a prosecutor. But now it is obvious to everyone, they make those protests bloody by hitting teens and pregnant women, they torture people in cells and steal their belongings, they are the very bright representatives of what our country is now.
So what is going to happen next? Feeling of powerlessness turns people cruel, despair with the time turns into wrath. Positioning of black or white makes people to decide on what side they are. Being face to face on different opposite sides with such a cocktail usually causes the blood. I really don’t want it to happen. But it seems to me that the feeling of total despair “presented” by Putin to people all across the country will make them to go out to the streets after any more or less strong political leader in an unpredictable situation. The situation here now reminds not a storm but a silence before it. Silence with sounds of cry. Sooner or later someone will drop a spark near a powder keg and there will be an inevitable blow. It will happen, we just don’t know who and when.