04/15/2022, 21.37
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Russian opposition defanged

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The flight of Ukraine war opponents is harming the pro-democracy camp at home. In the past 10 years, only one person, Alexei Navalny, has been able to reach out successfully to ordinary Russians. Presidential powers could be curbed if regional and local governments are no longer under presidential control.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – President Vladimir Putin’s tragic “special military operation” in Ukraine, which began on 24 February, has had many disastrous consequences, including defanging the political opposition to the current regime.

It is not just about the authorities’ crackdown on the opposition to the war, nor the government’s huge propaganda and disinformation campaign. For Russian political scientist Alexander Kynev, “millions of people in Russia have seen their life plans shattered, not only their plans for the future have been destroyed, but the very fate of individuals and families”

Speaking to Radio Svoboda (Radio Liberty), he noted that the ongoing social disaster has meant above all the absolute powerlessness of the political opposition. The emigration of the most publicly active people is causing irreparable damage to the country’s political life and the interaction of various political groups, already weakened by years of harsh repression.

According to Kynev, this is a double blow for the pro-democracy opposition, in Russia and abroad.

On the one hand, pro-democracy leaders are seen as “fifth columnists” and traitors to the homeland, while outside of Russia they are associated with the aggressor country, and no one is willing to listen to them, as blame is indiscriminately pinned on the entire Russian people.

What is more, the opposition is divided, uncertain about the usual questions: “Whose fault is it?” and “What can be done now?”

Some, active on social media, express a sense of collective guilt and the need to publicly express it, ashamed of being Russian, going so far as seeking to change country and name.

For Kynev, such emotional reactions are a form of “public suicide and an invaluable gift for the authorities,” making it almost impossible to discuss possible changes in the country and its government.

It comes close to being a “form of haughty snobbery” towards the mass of the population, who are only offered self-flagellating masochism that can help the repentant cleanse their conscience before world public opinion but not steer people away from offering patriotic support to the country and its initiatives.

The danger of “collective repentance" is that it helps those in power avoid taking responsibility for their actions. “If we are all guilty, including the opposition, it means that the regime has done what we have allowed it to do.” For the political scientist, this means that no individual bears any responsibility.

In the last 10 years, the only person able to reach out to ordinary Russians is Alexei Navalny, whose voice is now completely silenced by the restrictions of his detention regime.

In the last presidential elections, the ruling regime fielded fake opposition candidates, like journalist Ksenja Sobchak in 2018.

What is needed are not only popular leaders among those who are still in the country, but also profound institutional reforms to strip the autocrat of at least some of the huge power concentrated in the presidency, starting from the regions and local governments.

Kynev believes that "the decline of this authoritarian system is inevitable", if not within a very short period of time, given the unbearable effects of the war and sanctions.

For this reason, it is necessary to draft plans for change, but presently no one among the opposition political and cultural groups has come up with anything of value.

Hopefully, those forced abroad will take advantage of this period to work on projects projected towards the future and prepare to come back within a reasonable time to rebuild Russia together, like it happened many times in the past.

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