Aleksei Navalny, the charismatic anticorruption crusader and persistent thorn in the Kremlin’s side, has published exposés exploring the wealth of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, and Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika. Now he and his investigative team have trained their sights on someone even higher: President Vladimir Putin himself, RFE/RL reports:
Navalny on August 30 released a new video examining a Russian island near the Finnish border where a venerable country house has been restored and, he alleges, used by Putin for holidays. The 50-hectare property, located on the islet of Lodochny, not far from the city of Vyborg, in a bay north of the Gulf of Finland, is home to several buildings and a helicopter landing pad, according to Navalny. It also has a decades-old mansion known as Villa Selgren, which was used for a 1980s Soviet film about Sherlock Holmes.
The proceeds of the ruling elite’s corruption are not being invested in Russia, the Kleptocracy Initiative notes. Capital flight is now equal to the collective wealth of all Russian households, and private wealth held outside the country is around three times larger than official foreign reserves, according to a report by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
It has become somewhat fashionable to draw similarities between Navalny’s and Putin’s dictatorial manner and to discuss their inner political affinity and even the closeness of their worldviews, notes analyst Sergey Parkhomenko:
However, just the opposite is true: the logic of constructing a powerful opposition resource forces Navalny to develop more than just the organizational structure. Indignation over corruption alone won’t help draw universal attention and support. Day after day, Navalny has to hold increasingly more complex conversations with his supporters and undecided voters. He has to search for new stories and topics and reconsider and clarify his own positions. This is all becoming a prerequisite for the further development of his cause.
Navalny’s campaign platform is based on the idea that if bureaucrats stop stealing and the security strongmen receive less of the budget, there will be enough money in Russia for everything people actually want—roads, wages, pensions, medicine, and education. This position is understandably popular. In short, Navalny is merely stepping into territory that the state and the in-system opposition have abandoned. The Kremlin no longer plays to the demands of paternalism and populism, though those demands remain strong.
In March 2018, Russia’s presidential elections will almost certainly result in a fourth term for Putin, the National Endowment for Democracy reports. Putin’s third term as president has been marked not only by Russia’s invasion and occupation of Ukraine and the resulting sharp decline in US-Russia relations, but also by an intense crackdown on independent political activity inside Russia. New repressive laws have seriously challenged civil society organizations’ ability to operate and sought to restrict Russia’s independent media and internet freedom. The government has also targeted political opposition figures with legal persecution and violence, most notably with the 2015 assassination of the politician Boris Nemtsov (right).
Nevertheless, a courageous and committed Russian democratic movement has continued to adapt to these difficult circumstances and remains active today. An expert panel will discuss the challenges and opportunities for this democratic movement in the run-up to Russia’s 2018 presidential election and into Putin’s probable fourth term.
The National Endowment for Democracy, the Free Russia Foundation, and the Institute for Modern Russia invite you to a discussion on
Prospects for Russia’s Democratic Movement
Personal Lawyer, Family of Boris Nemtsov
Vice Chairman, Open Russia
President, Free Russia Foundation
Senior Director for Russia and Eurasia, National Endowment for Democracy
and moderated by
President, National Endowment for Democracy
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Washington DC, 20515
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