Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Navalny’s Murder ‘Radicalizing Both Elites and Opposition,’ Mikhaylov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 16 – Putin’s murder of Aleksey Navalny is “the crossing of a Rubicon” equivalent to the Anschluss of Crimea or the current Russian war in Ukraine, Nikolay Mikhaylov says, one that shows the true nature of the current regime, makes the upcoming presidential elections meaningless, and radicalizes both the elites and the opposition.

            Before this act of violence, the Russian commentator says, Moscow could present itself as having some basis of legitimacy in elections; but now it is obvious that such efforts are fraudulent and that the Putin regime rests only on unrestrained violence against its opponents (moscowtimes.ru/2024/02/16/ubiistvo-alekseya-naavalnogo-radikalizatsiya-i-eliti-i-oppozitsii-neizbezhna-a121954).

            For many, “even the lowliest official,” it is now clear that the only exit from this system involves the death of someone, Mikhaylov says. “For many, this is a cold shower just as the fear of Beria coming to power [after the death of Stalin] played that role for the old Soviet nomenklatura that was accustomed to fearing everything.” And it will radicalize them.

            Elites who still believe that the regime can change through gradual evolution has received a clear signal that this is impossible. That attitude remains dominant now; but by killing Navalny, Putin has “sharply increased the chances” that some in the elite “will be frightened enough to dare to try other scenarios. And that is much more important than the situation in the opposition.”

            But the opposition has suffered its own Rubicon, Mikhaylov continues. Navalny’s projects will be at risk of collapse unless a new leader can emerge; and there will be an effort to find some leadership that can unite the opposition both inside Russia and abroad in ways it has not been up to now.

            Most immediately, Navalny’s murder “completely devalues ‘the elections.’” Now everyone can see that what is going on in Putin’s Russia isn’t about elections but about “intimidation, violence, a mockery of competition and of public opinion.” And both elites and the opposition will have to decide how to respond.

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