Kremlin rattled?

The following article appeared in the Australian this weekend (first of October 2020), I’d like to see and hear from some of our guys a little closer to the events, any relevant articles, etc. that you might have.

Kremlin is rattled by the man who refuses to be intimidated

4:26PM OCTOBER 2, 2020

The reaction from Moscow was swift and perhaps inevitable.

When Alexei Navalny gave an interview to Der Spiegel on Thursday saying that he held President Vladimir Putin personally responsible for his poisoning, the first to respond in the Russian capital was Vyacheslav Volodin.

The Speaker of the state Duma, who is a close ally of Mr Putin, accused Mr Navalny of being a “shameless scoundrel” who worked for western intelligence services. He added the extraordinary claim that “Putin saved his life”.

Such comments demonstrate nervousness in the Kremlin about how to deal with falling public support and Mr Navalny, Russia’s most prominent critic of its rulers, becoming increasingly visible as key elections approach next year.

How Mr Putin saved Mr Navalny’s life was unclear and Dmitry Peskov, the president’s spokesman, was unable to clarify.

He was, however, keen to support the thesis that the man who is Mr Putin’s only real opposition threat was a foreign stooge, saying that the CIA was “giving (him) instructions”.

Such comments stem from Mr Putin’s attitude to the poisoning of Mr Navalny, 44, who collapsed on a flight from Siberia to Moscow on August 20, and was later flown to Berlin for treatment.

The Russian leader is believed to have told French President Emmanuel Macron that Mr Navalny was an “internet troublemaker who has simulated illnesses in the past”, and who had probably poisoned himself.

It used to be easy for the ­Kremlin to dismiss Mr Navalny as marginal, and it was largely successful at keeping him out of the national conversation with a de facto ban on his appearance on state television.

The key question of who poisoned the campaigner remains unanswered. The likelihood of state involvement increased significantly when the Charite hospital in Berlin identified the substance used to poison him as novichok, the nerve agent allegedly deployed by Russian intelligence officers in an attempt to murder Sergei Skripal, their turncoat double agent colleague, in Salisbury in 2018.

One possible explanation is that Mr Putin, 67, has given a general endorsement to the security services to attack people seen as traitors, without issuing individual orders.

The problem is that Mr Navalny will not go away. His task, he said in the interview published on Thursday, is to “remain the guy who is not afraid”. “I won’t give Putin the gift of failing to go back to Russia,” he added.

Such resolve is a headache for the Kremlin as never before.

Mr Putin is thought to have been unsettled by the uprising against the Belarusian autocrat President Alexander Lukashenko, 66, and by street protests in the Russian city of Khabarovsk, where the Kremlin engineered the removal of a popular governor.

Mr Navalny ran a successful tactical voting campaign last year to diminish the control of Kremlin-loyal deputies over Moscow’s city parliament.

There is concern that he could repeat the feat at elections to the state Duma next year.

A weakening of the Kremlin’s parliamentary stranglehold could disrupt Mr Putin’s plan to ease in a sympathetic successor or even extend his rule when his final term ends in 2024.

Even before his poisoning, Mr Navalny had forced his way into public discourse, using social media to spread his views and his slick investigations into corruption.

In a survey published in June, the independent Levada Centre polling agency asked 1600 Russians to name well-known living people who inspired them with an active social role. The same percentage of those aged 25 to 39 chose Mr Navalny and Mr Putin but more of those aged 40 to 54 chose Mr Navalny.