Staunton, February 9 – In announcing a new form of anti-Kremlin protest for February 14 after earlier saying there wouldn’t be mass demonstrations until the spring, Leonid Volkov, head of the Aleksey Navalny staff, argues that the new protests will keep up the pressure on the regime and that “when fear disappears, Putin will disappear along with it.”
In an interview with Yekaterina Mishchuk of MBK News, Volkov says that “the arrests and beatings of those protesting” on January 23 and January 31 is “the negative result of the protests.” But he points to two positive outcomes: solidarity among those mistreated and “a victory over fear” (mbk-news.appspot.com/suzhet/ischeznet-putin/).
“On January 23,” he continues, “no one expected that 300,000 people under conditions of unprecedented intimidation would come out in 180 cities” across the Russian Federation.” The detention of 12,000 of them, “the largest wave of repression in our country since Stalin’s time,” is why the Navalny staff decided not to hold mass protests at least for a time.
“We understood that there is no sense in a further frontal cavalry attack against tanks,” Volkov says. “There would be tens of thousands more beaten and arrested, and all this would lead to an increase in despondency.” But it is important that both the Russian people that be see that no one is giving up.
Consequently, the staff decided to hold a protest this Sunday “in a new format,” one in which people will use cellphones and flashlights in the yards of their apartment blocks and hold them up for several minutes to show that they aren’t afraid and remain committed to the ideas which animated the protesters (t.me/leonid_volkov/2293).
Holding a demonstration of this kind, Volkov explains, is especially important because the new audience Navalny has won with his films about Putin’s palace “does not consist of experienced hardcore activists” who are used to putting up with the repressive actions of Putin’s siloviki.
At the same time, he continues, the Navalny staff has come up with a list of 35 Russian officials, including “key propagandists, siloviki and the bagman” who finance both, and is speaking with European and American officials about the possibility of imposing personal sanctions on these individuals.
All this is in aid of meeting “the main challenge” the Navalny movement faces: overcoming fear of repressions in the population. Doing that is hard but important because “fear is the Kremlin’s chief weapon. As soon as fear disappears in the collective consciousness, Putin also will disappear.”
“Putin is fear,” Volkov says, but “there are things which are stronger than fear, and we will soon be talking about them.”