Staunton, August 25 – “The murder of Boris Nemtsov was organized by those who considered that the FSB wasn’t doing its job,” Tatayana Stanovaya says; “and the poisoning of Navalny could have been carried out by those who consider they have to interfere because the vertical isn’t taking action.”
Both the one and the other apparently relied on the rise of “a market of ‘protective services,” of groups prepared to take such actions when the Putin regime itself either isn’t eager to do or perhaps even desirous of promoting such things, the Moscow political analyst argues (carnegie.ru/commentary/82563).
Now that German doctors have concluded that Navalny was in fact poisoned, his family and supporters are convinced that this was the work of the Russian authorities themselves, but “the Kremlin continues to give the impression that nothing special has happened,” thereby creating a state of affairs in which the facts won’t come out “for months or even years.”
“But already, by itself, the fact of an attack on Navalny is an important symptom which points to the erosion of the force resources in Putin’s Russia where many are prepared to look for ever more risky means of survival,” Stanovaya suggests in an essay for Moscow’s Carnegie Center.
The Kremlin has excluded Navalny from direct political participation, and his own “autocratic and intolerant” approach has offended many who might otherwise be his supporters, she argues. But “at the same time, Navalny periodically has been able to achieve significant successes” with his exposure of corruption at the top of the Putin system.
“Navalny’s extra-systemic status has another side: it deprives the opposition figure of access to law enforcement mechanisms. He cannot count on just treatment by the legal system or the state.” And Putin’s unwillingness to mention his name puts Navalny at even greater risk of attacks from those with grievances against him or his activities.
“For Putin,” Stanovaya says, “Navalny’s political activity is on the distant periphery of an infinite geopolitical universe.” He isn’t a politician but rather an irritant, and that opens the way to “extra-systemic” means of dealing with him. Putin doesn’t like him but doesn’t view him as an enemy or want to make him a martyr either.
As a result, the Kremlin probably did not give a direct order in this case. Indeed, attacking Navalny in this way doesn’t serve Putin’s interests because it elevates Navalny’s status and harms Putin’s own. But Navalny does present a real political threat because he offers a vision of the future, something Putin and his team haven’t been able to do.
At present, there are two groups of people who are more likely to have organized this assassination attempt, Stanovaya continues, those who were victims of his investigations or those who think they can help the regime by doing what it has proved too cowardly to do on its own. Both are likely to make use of the “’protective services’” now on offer in Moscow.
The rise of such services in and of itself and the willingness of those close to the center of power highlights the erosion of the power of the Putin regime and the increasingly nasty, even vicious competition among its components. Many of them may see attacking Navalny as serving their interests – or even believing that in doing so they are helping Putin.
What all this means, the Moscow analyst concludes, is that the status of being a member of the extra-systemic opposition is an ever more dangerous one, with the only real defense being emigration, given that reducing activity in Russia may not be enough to ensure their personal survival.