a challenge to Putin, a lesson for Europe

Editorial of the “World”. “Well done, but there is a risk. “ The Russian opponent and ex-oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky knows something about it, as he recalls in a Tweet congratulating, Wednesday, January 13, Alexeï Navalny for his decision to return to Russia. For wanting to open up the Russian political system, Khodorkovsky spent ten years in prison; he only came out by agreeing to go into exile, in 2013. He has lived in Europe ever since, with his wings cut.

This is exactly what Navalny wants to avoid. After having survived an assassination attempt by poisoning in Novichok, the number one enemy of the Russian regime, treated for five months in Berlin after having been close to death, returns to the fight and offers himself the luxury of staging his return . It will be Sunday, January 17, with a flight from the low-cost company Pobeda, which, as an additional gesture of defiance, means “victory” in Russian. The opponent announced it on social networks, with this invitation addressed to his supporters: “Come meet me. “

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What will happen when flight DP 936 arrives on Sunday evening at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport? The Russian authorities can choose to arrest Alexeï Navalny, who will undoubtedly be accompanied by his wife and journalists. In the hope of dissuading the opponent from returning, the authorities have indeed threatened to cancel the suspended prison sentence that hangs over him, on the pretext that he did not appear at the police station on December 30. as he should do regularly. For good measure, another case was opened against him in his absence.


But throwing Navalny in prison would be a way of recognizing that he is dangerous and that, therefore, the authorities have tried to suppress him. President Putin denied it, saying not without cynicism that if the Russian secret services had wanted to get rid of him, they would have succeeded. Relentless investigative work by the site’s journalists Bellingcat however, revealed the participation of agents of the secret service, the FSB, experts in chemical weapons, in the attempt to poison Navalny. The opponent himself, who took part in the investigation, went so far as to record his telephone conversation in December with one of these agents, whom he led to give him details of the operation by pretending to be one of his colleagues.

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At the risk of his life and his freedom, Alexeï Navalny poses a real challenge to the Russian power, while legislative elections are scheduled this year. By returning to his country, he shows that he is not afraid and that he intends to resume his role of spoiler and whistleblower of corruption, failing to legally be able to constitute a political alternative. He puts the spotlight on the flaws of the regime of Vladimir Putin, engaged in a constitutional reform which should allow him to control power until 2036 and more than ever determined to silence any real political debate.

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It is also a challenge for Europe and, soon, Joe Biden’s United States. Europe welcomed Navalny, but, beyond the sanctions, it remains largely powerless, without levers on Moscow, no more than on Belarus, where repression continues to befall heroic opponents. The least it can do is, on the one hand, to banish all complacency towards Mr. Putin and, on the other hand, to help civil society to be informed, to open up and form. As vigorously as possible.

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