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World Alexei Navalny's allies seek to 'increase the turbulence' for Putin in effort to oust him

07:35  16 june  2021
07:35  16 june  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

Alexei Navalny's Team Promises to Keep Working, Despite Pending Extremist Label From Russian Court

  Alexei Navalny's Team Promises to Keep Working, Despite Pending Extremist Label From Russian Court "Navalny's team will not stop its activities, they shouldn't hope for that," Ivan Zhdanov, a top Navalny associate who headed his foundation, said.This ruling would prevent people associated with the group from running for public office and could subject activists who worked for the group or anyone who otherwise supported the group to lengthy prison sentences.

Navalny and Yatsenyuk also want their respective countries to be more aligned with the EU and the West in general, and resent anything that alludes to the "influence" that the current Putin government has on Russia or Ukraine. Unlike Yatsenyuk however, Navalny has had little to no success The current opposition "poster boy" favorite of Russian youth and especially western media is Russian blogger Alexei Navalny whose blog is titled LiveJournal. Navalny has featured prominently as a quasi-martyr of the protest movement after spending 15 days in Putin ' s jail for partaking in a banned protest.

Supporters of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny attend a demonstration organized by the group Art of Rebel outside the Russian embassy in London. FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock. In February, he was given a 2 1/2-year prison term for violating the terms of a suspended sentence from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that he dismissed as politically motivated. see also. Putin ratchets up effort to crush Navalny ’ s opposition with closed-door hearing.

WASHINGTON – Russian President Vladimir Putin has imprisoned the charismatic leader of an opposition movement, shuttered the group's 40-plus offices and branded the entire membership as "extremists."

Which explains why allies of Alexei Navalny, Putin's chief antagonist and would-be political rival, are rooting for a "black swan" moment — some as-yet-unforeseen political event — that triggers the Russian dictator's downfall.

And why, on the eve of a high-stakes summit between Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden, Navalny's chief of staff is in Washington, huddling with State Department officials and American lawmakers about U.S. strategy to confront Russia over its expanding list of aggressions, from cyberattacks to disinformation.

Russia outlaws Putin critic's organizations, labeling them 'extremist'

  Russia outlaws Putin critic's organizations, labeling them 'extremist' A Russian court has outlawed the organizations of the opposition leader Alexey Navalny by labelling them as “extremist.” The ruling by Moscow's City Court puts Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, the FBK, and its regional political offices alongside terror groups like the Islamic State and means that anyone publicly supporting Navalny could now face lengthy prison sentences, as well as being barred from running in elections.

Navalny , an activist and one of Putin ' s fiercest critics, returned to Russia from Germany in January after recovering from poisoning with a nerve agent. He was detained shortly after his arrival in Moscow and sentenced to two years and eight months in prison for violating the terms of his probation while he was treated abroad. Navalny initially went on a hunger strike, and his allies say he came close to death before ending his strike on the advice of doctors. Asked if he could guarantee Navanly would leave prison alive, Putin claimed he had no say over the matter. "Look, such decisions in this country are

The Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny ' s health has been rapidly deteriorating in prison, his allies say. Dimitar Dilkoff/Getty Images. Volkov, Navalny ' s top aide, last week told Insider that it was "dumb" for Putin to put the anti-corruption campaigner in prison because it turned him into a symbol for people to rally behind. The House Oversight Committee released hundreds of pages of documents on Tuesday showing Trump's efforts to use the DOJ for his own political ends. 4h ago.

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"We are not pretending Putin will go next year or even in five years. This could take long," Leonid Volkov, who helps manage the day-to-day operations of Navalny's anti-corruption organization, told a group of journalists last Thursday over dinner at an Italian restaurant in downtown Washington.

A day earlier, Russia had outlawed Navalny's anti-corruption organizations and banned its allies from seeking office, including in the upcoming parliamentary elections set for September.

Navalny has been in prison since January, after surviving an attempted poisoning he blames on the Kremlin. Putin has denied involvement in the attempted assassination but refuses to guarantee Navalny will leave prison alive.

Russia officially outlaws Navalny's political network a week before Putin's meeting with Biden

  Russia officially outlaws Navalny's political network a week before Putin's meeting with Biden The move sends a clear message to Biden that his criticism of Russia over the treatment of Navalny will not derail Putin's war on dissent.The ruling came just a week before a highly anticipated meeting between the Russian leader and President Joe Biden. It sends a clear message to Biden that his criticism of Russia over the treatment of Navalny and other dissidents won't deter Putin's campaign to crush his opponents.

Putin critic Alexey Navalny detained 02:06. Moscow — Russian authorities have rounded up several more opposition activists, including close allies of jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny , as part of a pressure campaign aimed at keeping a lid on protests this weekend sparked by Navalny ' s arrest. Moscow is also pushing international social media companies to silence calls for people to join the unsanctioned rallies on Saturday in support of Navalny . Navalny , 44, was detained Sunday evening at a Moscow airport immediately upon his return from Germany, where he spent the previous five

If Putin lets Navalny live, then Navalny remains a focus for resistance, whether he is in prison or not. " Navalny has very much outmaneuvered Putin at each turn since the poisoning. It's becoming a bit humiliating for him, and I'm not sure how safe Navalny might be right now," said a central European intelligence officer who works in Russia-related counterintelligence. Putin has also lost his main US ally , Donald Trump, who likely would not have pressured Putin for Navalny ' s freedom. European officials were meeting across the continent on Monday to discuss responses to the weekend's events.

"He will not be treated any worse than anybody else," Putin told NBC News in an interview that aired Monday.

Fiona Hill, an expert on Russia with the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington, said Putin would have been “very happy” if Navalny had died in prison during the hunger strike he waged earlier this year. Navalny halted the strike after being warned by his doctors that his life was in danger.

Putin is now looking for other ways to minimize Navalny's influence, said Hill, a former national security adviser in the Trump administration.

“Navanly’s a massive threat” to Putin and his cronies, who are “a pretty corrupt and kleptocratic group,” she said during a June 10 briefing held by Brookings.

“Now what can we do about it? Honestly, not a great deal,” she added.

But Volkov says the U.S. can take meaningful steps to counter Putin's repression. He said the Russian government's latest move to ban Navalny's organizations only serves to highlight Putin's weakness.

Russia declares Navalny's opposition movement an extremist group

  Russia declares Navalny's opposition movement an extremist group U.S. says Russia has "effectively criminalized one of the country's few remaining independent political movements."The court handed down its decision on Wednesday after a 12-hour closed-door hearing, essentially putting Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) and an associated network of regional offices in the same category as ISIS and the Taliban in the eyes of the Russian government.

In an interview broadcast on Monday, Putin hit out at suggestions he was threatened by dissent, with Simmons raising the case of imprisoned activist Alexey Navalny . “Who says that I feel threatened by opposition or we are threatened by opposition? Who told you that I’m scared by opposition?” he demanded. He added that recent court rulings against Navalny ’ s organization and the decision to list two overseas-backed media outlets, Meduza and VTimes, as ‘foreign agents’ were not part of a pattern of repression, arguing that the US had equivalent measures. “I believe that it’s justified,” he said.

Pointing to efforts to seek support from new US President Joe Biden in securing Navalny ’ s release and sanctioning high-profile Russians, he emphasized their growing efforts to find allies abroad. The organization is registered by the Russian Ministry of Justice as a ‘foreign agent’ over its ties to funding from overseas. The move prompted a furious reaction from lawmakers within the country, and Putin ’s spokesman told journalists that “the fund has demonstrated, technically and in general, that it deserves the status of a foreign agent.”

"Putin could bulldoze away all our regional offices,'' Volkov said. "It's not gonna help him."

It won't improve Russia's economy, he said, or wipe away Russians' deep frustration with the rampant corruption of Putin's regime. And it definitely won't improve his low approval ratings among Russia's younger generation.

A poll released in February, conducted by the Levada Centre independently of the Russian government, showed Putin with a 64% approval rating overall. Among Russians 18 to 24 years old, his approval had dropped by 17% from the previous year, to 51%.

"It's a new and uncomfortable and stressful role for him. And people who are stressed tend to make mistakes," Volkov said, noting that Putin used to enjoy 80%-plus ratings.

"Our job," he added, "is to make use of those mistakes."

More: Ahead of Biden meeting, Putin won't guarantee opposition leader Alexei Navalny will leave prison alive

He conceded that Navalny's movement is experiencing "a low moment." Volkov said Navalny's condition seems stable, and they are able to communicate, though he would not say how.

Vladimir Putin wouldn't guarantee Alexei Navalny will leave prison alive in chilling message to Biden ahead of Geneva summit

  Vladimir Putin wouldn't guarantee Alexei Navalny will leave prison alive in chilling message to Biden ahead of Geneva summit "He will not be treated any worse than anybody else. Nobody should be given any kind of special treatment," Putin said of Navalny, his top critic.NBC News' Keir Simmons asked Putin whether he was willing to "personally ensure that Alexei Navalny will leave prison alive.

Volvok himself is living in self-exile in Lithuania, where he said he takes "rational precautions" for his safety. With all their offices now closed, their anti-corruption work has moved entirely online, he said.

But he insists their anti-corruption campaign can maintain traction and build support, even with shuttered offices closed and their activities severely restricted. Volkov acknowledged the group is heavily dependent on big-tech platforms to reach their Russian supporters.

"The strategy is ... to win more sympathy, to win more voters, to win more supporters, to create more challenges and more stress for the regime — until the regime makes it its last mistake," he said. "Having said that, we don't know when it happens."

He conceded that an Arab-spring type revolution in Russia seems unlikely right now, and they may just have to wait until Putin dies.

"But we absolutely believe that Putinism will not survive" after Putin himself is gone, he said, likening Russia to a "mafia state."

By continuing to expose Putin's corruption, Navalny's movement can "increase the turbulence" and discontent inside Russia "so that any random event could actually lead to mass protests," Volkov said. In one of its most successful projects, Navanly's Anti-Corruption Foundation's released a viral video alleging that Putin has a $1.3 billion palace near the Black Sea. Putin has denied any connection to the palace.

The Putin summit may backfire on Biden

  The Putin summit may backfire on Biden The biggest risk Biden faces won’t come during the Putin summit. It’ll possibly come right afterward.That may sound good, but experts warn Biden is setting himself up for potential failure.

In his recent conversations with U.S. policymakers, Volkov said he has emphasized America's leverage over Putin. He and other Navalny allies have called on the Biden administration to sanction a band of 35 wealthy oligarchs and Kremlin operatives closely linked to Putin.

Biden must sanction 'the cronies and wallets of Putin,' says ally of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny

He said he would consider Biden's summit with Putin a success if the Russian autocrat makes "concrete and measurable concessions on human rights issues," such as revoking the extremist law that banned Navalny's group or releasing some political prisoners.

"I think it's very realistic because of the leverage the United States actually has at this very moment of political history," he said. If Biden uses that leverage, "this will be perfectly possible."

Volkov said he thinks his message is resonating with officials at the State Department and in Congress.

"We have a feeling that the administration is thinking like what to squeeze out of Putin, which concessions they could actually achieve," he said.

But several Russia experts said they have low expectations for the summit.

Hill said if Biden raises Navalny’s imprisonment, Putin will try to make a false equivalence to the Americans who have been arrested for their role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

“He wants to push right back at us,” she said. Hill said the political polarization that has gripped the U.S. is "providing Vladimir Putin with lots of fodder for his typical what-about-ism.”

Alexei Navalny et al. standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, center, attends a rally in Moscow, Russia on Jan. 28, 2018. Navalny, who is President Vladimir Putin's most visible and vehement foe, has been barred from running in presidential election set for March 18. He has been detained multiple times by police for unsanctioned rallies. © Evgeny Feldman, AP Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, center, attends a rally in Moscow, Russia on Jan. 28, 2018. Navalny, who is President Vladimir Putin's most visible and vehement foe, has been barred from running in presidential election set for March 18. He has been detained multiple times by police for unsanctioned rallies.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Alexei Navalny's allies seek to 'increase the turbulence' for Putin in effort to oust him

Opinion: How meeting with Biden put Putin on top of the world .
The Geneva summit never should have happened, writes Garry Kasparov. Now that it's over, I'm even more mystified as to why it happened at all. I can answer for Putin, of course. Dictators love events that put them on an equal footing with democratic leaders and sitting one-on-one with the president of the United States is the most coveted prize of all. Putin already scored a major victory the moment the summit was announced, especially since Biden himself proposed the meeting. For Putin, it wasn't just a meeting between heads of government -- for him, it was literally the highest point, the top of the world.

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