Friday, March 19, 2021

West Must Respond to Putin’s Moves against Navalny as It Did to Soviet Ones Against Sakharov, Yakovenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 17 – Vladimir Putin’s “chief card” in his campaign to discredit and isolate Aleksey Navalny is that the opposition leader does not have anyone on his team who can replace him while he languishes in prison where he is being subject to sleep deprivation and other means to break him, Igor Yakovenko says.

            Because of that and because the Putin regime has the power to crush opposition protests, the Russian commentator says, international actions in support of Navalny become significantly more important. Indeed, what the West must do is to repeat what it did when the Soviet authorities exiled Academician Andrey Sakharov to Gorky.

             Then, Yakovenko says, Western governments and rights activists renamed the streets and squares in front of Soviet embassies in his honor, they organized regular Sakharov hearings in Western capitals, and they even secured the awarding of the Novel Peace Prize to the embattled Russian scholar and activist (

            To be sure, “Putin’s Russia is not the Soviet Union, and Aleksey Navalny is not very much like Academician Sakharov. But History has so disposed things in a way” that Navalny is playing a key role in fighting Putinism and in backing him as it once backed Sakharov, the West can help defeat “one of the chief threats to humanity in all its history.”

            The conflict between Putin and Navalny is the latest example of the personalization of political struggle in Russia, Yakovenko says. It is one where Putin would appear to have every advantage because he can do to Navalny whatever he wants while Navalny’s ability to reply in kind is almost nil.

            But despite that, Navalny is winning and Putin is losing. Ever more Russians know about him and approve his program, while support for the Kremlin leader continues to fall. The West needs to tilt the balance further in Navalny’s direction just as it did with Sakharov’s because at present Navalny is fighting not just for Russia but for the West and its values as well.



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