01/18/2021, 09.20
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Anti-Putin mayor Sardana Avksentieva resigns and the return of Naval'nyj

by Vladimir Rozanskij

A "preventive cleansing" of Putin's opponents is underway, in view of the parliamentary elections that will take place this year. Avksentieva, mayor of Yakutsk (Eastern Siberia) is known for her battle against corruption, in contrast to the Putinians. Alexei Naval’ny was arrested last night as he landed at the airport. Amnesty International declares him a "prisoner of conscience".

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The return and immediate arrest of Alexei Navalnyj, one of the best known opponents of President Vladimir Putin, accused by Navalnyj of being the instigator of his poisoning, from which he was saved thanks to the treatment received in Germany for five months, is causing a stir around the world.

The resignation of Sardana Avksentieva, mayor of Yakutsk, the capital of the Sakha region in eastern Siberia, on 15 January last, is less of an international sensation. But in Russia such resignations cause a lot of concern. Avksentieva herself communicated via Facebook that she is no longer able to work full time 365 days a year, and that she needs to take care of her health: "I ask you not to dramatize the situation; there are no irreplaceable people, and the history of Yakutsk is measured in centuries”. In her place, the deputy mayor, a member of "United Russia", Putin's party, was appointed regent.

The reasons given by the very popular mayor are not sufficient to eliminate the suspicions of strong external pressure, to remove one of the main opposition figures to Putin from the public scene. Stressed by the hostility of the central authorities, Avksentieva would have given up. The authoritative economic journalist Maksim Tovkajlo of Radio Svoboda speculates: "It is hard to have to struggle every day with political pressure to be able to do one's job, health problems are an obvious excuse".

Yakutsk is one of the most important cities in eastern Siberia, with over 300,000 inhabitants, over 5,000 km from Moscow, at the head of the Sakha region. It is known for the extraction of diamonds, gold and other precious materials, which is carried out with very special techniques in often prohibitive climatic conditions. One of the problems in the area is labour migration, which attracts people from all over for the high salaries, and in particular Chinese emigrants. The mayor has long struggled to bring this unbridled migration under control.

Sardana Avksentieva became popular above all for her cost containment measures and the fight against corruption, which in 2018 led to the arrest of the director of the region’s Immigration Office, Dmitry Maximov. The first female mayor in the history of the city, she was elected in September 2018 with 40% of the vote, against the Putinian candidate Aleksandr Savvinov, of which she had been deputy mayor in previous years.

At the time, she caused a sensation by her renunciation of the "official cars" supplied to regional leaders in Moscow, switching to the use of taxis, and reducing official cars in Yakutsk itself. In November 2020, the mayor proposed putting the city's opulent administrative building up for auction, to transfer the local government to "cheaper places, because bureaucrats don't need to sit in gilded armchairs in the city center". In the official files Avksentieva has put a photo of when as a child she helped to clean the streets (the famous Soviet subbotnik shifts), and in her studio there is no portrait of President Putin.

Avksentieva greatly angered the central power by defending the shaman Aleksandr Gabyshev, who from East Asia intended to go to Moscow and cast his curses on the president, and was locked up in an asylum. According to the mayor, it is "improper punitive detention". The straw that broke the camel's back was the vote against the new Putinian constitution, in which among other things the direct elections of mayors was cancelled, such as the one in which Avksentieva herself was elected in 2018. Through the social media, she had announced in August that "I would not be surprised if some serious accusations were made against me, as happened to the governor Furgal of Khabarovsk".

The resignation of Avksentieva is part of a general framework of "preventive cleaning" in view of the parliamentary elections that will take place this year (the date has yet to be fixed, depending on health conditions).

The threat to Putin's power comes precisely from the provinces in which personalities are multiplying outside, or even in opposition to Putinism, to which the most charismatic of opponents will provide new inspiration: Alexei Navalnyj. With the stigmata of the martyr, for having overcome the attempted poisoning, last night he landed in Moscow, at the airport of Sheremetyevo (after various misleading information to disperse the crowd), between and enthusiasm of its supporters and the surveillance of the police.

As expected, Naval'nyj was stopped at passport control, on the edge of the Russian border, to answer charges clearly constructed for the occasion. His arrest, recorded live by dozens of journalists who accompanied him, only increases the passion with which he is now recognized as the true antagonist of the current regime. Amnesty International has already declared Naval'nyj a "prisoner of conscience".

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