The Washington Post

Krem­lin warns Rus­sians against pro-navalny protests; ac­tivists de­tained

- BY ROBYN DIXON robyn.dixon@wash­ Corruption · Politics · Crime · Prison · Government of Russia · Alexey Navalny · Vladimir Putin · Russia · Russian Empire · Germany · Instagram · Moscow · Carnegie Endowment for International Peace · Novosibirsk · Youtube · Noize MC · United States Marine Corps · Dmitry Glukhovsky · Igor Denisov · Artyom · Yury Dud · Yulia Navalnaya · Lyubov Sobol · Metro 2033 · Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media

moscow — Rus­sian au­thor­i­ties from the Krem­lin down warned Rus­sians on Fri­day not to join Satur­day protests to sup­port jailed op­po­si­tion leader Alexei Navalny, as po­lice de­tained key op­po­si­tion ac­tivists and jailed two mem­bers of his team. But dozens of prom­i­nent so­cial media in­flu­encers, celebri­ties and sports stars ex­pressed hor­ror and anger at Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s au­thor­i­tar­ian turn.

In a let­ter re­port­edly writ­ten from prison, Navalny sug­gested his life was at risk and de­clared that, “just in case,” he has no in­ten­tion of killing him­self.

“Right now it’s im­pos­si­ble to fur­ther shut up in this sit­u­a­tion be­cause once they deal with him, they’ll deal with ev­ery­one else who’s crit­i­cal in the slight­est,” said Dmitry Glukhovsky, au­thor of a cult dystopian sci­ence fic­tion tril­ogy and sur­vival games se­ries, in an interview Fri­day.

“If you keep shut­ting up and you keep pre­tend­ing that ev­ery­thing is nor­mal, you get the feel­ing that the sit­u­a­tion will de­te­ri­o­rate way faster and it will be com­pletely un­con­trol­lable,” said Glukhovsky, whose young fan base in­cludes many gamers. “In ev­ery loom­ing and sick­en­ing dic­ta­tor­ship, if you do not back the newly ar­rested per­son, soon they will come after you.”

The dis­con­nect be­tween the Krem­lin and Rus­sian so­cial media in­flu­encers un­der­scored Putin’s prob­lems in reach­ing be­yond his aging, con­ser­va­tive base to con­nect with the young, ur­ban Rus­sians who want to be part of the mod­ern world.

Igor Denisov, the for­mer cap­tain of Rus­sia’s na­tional soc­cer team, also came out in sup­port of Navalny. His com­ments showed the depth of alarm in Rus­sia over Navalny’s near-fa­tal poi­son­ing in Au­gust and his im­pris­on­ment im­me­di­ately after he flew home from Ger­many, where he re­ceived treat­ment.

“I have never been in­ter­ested in politics, and I will never be in­ter­ested in politics,” Denisov said. “But this is not about politics.”

He added: “I want to sup­port Alexei Navalny and his fam­ily, his wife and his chil­dren. Alexei should be free. I do re­spect him. I wish every­body peace and kind­ness.”

It is un­usual in Rus­sia for sports he­roes to speak out po­lit­i­cally, but hockey star Ar­tyom Pa­narin, one of the coun­try’s top play­ers, also posted “Free Navalny” on In­sta­gram.

Rus­sian au­thor­i­ties rounded up mem­bers of Navalny’s team ahead of Satur­day’s planned ral­lies. His press sec­re­tary, Kira Yarmysh, tweeted late Thurs­day that po­lice were pound­ing on her door telling her she would be de­tained be­fore the Moscow protest rally. She was jailed Fri­day for nine days.

Ge­orgy Al­burov, an­other mem­ber of Navalny’s team and co-au­thor of a vi­ral video, “Putin’s Palace: His­tory of the World’s Big­gest Bribe,” was jailed Fri­day for 10 days. The video, which al­leges that a mas­sive lux­ury palace was built for Putin on the Black Sea, has been viewed more than 57 mil­lion times.

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst An­drei Kolesnikov of the Carnegie Moscow Cen­ter pre­dicted that au­thor­i­ties would ig­nore the mount­ing pres­sure to free Navalny as the regime moves to a full-scale au­thor­i­tar­ian ap­proach, crush­ing po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents and civic ac­tivists.

“They will not lis­ten to any­one,” he said. “This is a kind of civil war on civil so­ci­ety by the state.”

Even so, the out­pour­ing of sup­port for Navalny from celebri­ties and so­cial media in­flu­encers, such as pop­u­lar video blog­ger Yury Dud, poses a ma­jor chal­lenge to the Krem­lin, Kolesnikov added.

“The cur­rent young gen­er­a­tion is more rad­i­cal than pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions,” he said. “They want to live in a mod­ern­ized Rus­sian, not an old-fash­ioned, traditiona­l Rus­sia. This is a gen­er­a­tion that was born un­der Putin and is still liv­ing un­der Putin. For them, Navalny is a more in­spir­ing per­son, if they com­pare Navalny as a pa­tri­ot­i­cally ori­ented fig­ure who re­turns to Rus­sia with Putin, who is much older and more old-fash­ioned.”

Rus­sia’s In­te­rior Min­istry warned Fri­day that tough ac­tion would be taken against pro­test­ers Satur­day. Un­sanc­tioned protests “will be re­garded as a threat to pub­lic or­der and will be im­me­di­ately sup­pressed,” it said. Op­po­si­tion so­cial media pages were shut down.

Navalny’s wife, Yu­lia Naval­naya, said Fri­day on In­sta­gram that she will demon­strate Satur­day “for my­self, for him, for our chil­dren, for the val­ues and ideals we share,” de­spite the risk of ar­rest.

“I will come out for an amaz­ing, very tal­ented politi­cian who is mak­ing Rus­sia better de­spite all odds,” she said. “I’ ll go for the guy who tweets funny jokes and does great in­ves­tiga­tive work. I’ ll go for the fear­less, coura­geous man who gets poi­soned . . . and never gives up no mat­ter what. I’m go­ing for the man I love very much.”

An op­po­si­tion law­maker in Novosi­birsk, Sergei Boiko, was ar­rested. Many other mem­bers of Navalny’s team were ar­rested in cities across Rus­sia. Lyubov Sobol, a prom­i­nent mem­ber of Navalny’s team, was de­tained Thurs­day but re­leased the same night.

De­spite the crack­down, how­ever, Rus­sian au­thor­i­ties ap­peared to be los­ing con­trol of the nar­ra­tive amid an out­pour­ing of sup­port for Navalny from Rus­sian celebri­ties.

“For all those who didn’t know it, or who sim­ply doubted: For­merly it was gang­sters who com­mit­ted may­hem, but now the state does it eas­ily,” said Dud, the video blog­ger who has more than 8 mil­lion Youtube fol­low­ers. “The big­gest risk here is that when law­less­ness be­comes the norm, very of­ten ev­ery­one be­comes its vic­tim, including those who once es­tab­lished and en­forced this norm.”

Well-known ac­tress Yana Troy­anova posted that Rus­sia was be­ing “plun­dered in a com­pletely in­so­lent way,” re­fer­ring to the “Putin’s Palace” video. She called on Rus­sians to join the Satur­day protests “just to feel that you are a free per­son.”

A young Rus­sian pop star, El­iza­veta Gyrdy­mova, known as “Mone­tochka,” posted a song on In­sta­gram in sup­port of Navalny’s free­dom. “This is not about politics, but about civil so­ci­ety and jus­tice,” she com­mented.

Other sup­port­ers included rap­per Noize MC, pop­u­lar TV host and blog­ger Aly­ona Vodon­ayeva, ac­tress Var­vara Sh­mykova and news pre­sen­ter Leonid Parfy­onov.

“I thought such evil kings only ex­isted in some very scary fairy tales. But no, this is our reality,” Vodon­ayeva said, re­fer­ring to Putin.

The first novel in Glukhovsky’s dystopian sci­ence fic­tion tril­ogy, “Metro 2033,” set in the Moscow Metro in a post-apoc­a­lyp­tic world, tells a dark story of fascis­tic lead­ers who con­struct a big lie to fool peo­ple to keep them trapped un­der­ground after a nu­clear holo­caust. He said he was not a par­tic­u­lar Navalny sup­porter but that it was im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore the au­thor­i­tar­ian turn after what he called “a chain of mur­der­ous poi­son­ings,” not only of Navalny but of other Krem­lin crit­ics.

“How can you be for the en­tire state ma­chin­ery of Rus­sia op­pos­ing the only truly in­de­pen­dent prom­i­nent politi­cian, with first try­ing to elim­i­nate him phys­i­cally,” he said in an interview Fri­day. “How can you be for ban­ning all kinds of civ­i­lized po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity in the coun­try, including pe­nal­iz­ing even a sin­gle [per­son who] protests, turn­ing Rus­sia def­i­nitely into an au­toc­racy, pro­long­ing Putin’s abil­ity to stay in power per­son­ally for an­other decade and a half from now?”

Krem­lin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned that protests are il­le­gal and un­ac­cept­able. He said “provo­ca­teurs” were be­hind the protests.

“There can be only one po­si­tion — the po­si­tion of the un­con­di­tional need to com­ply with the law and the in­ad­mis­si­bil­ity of or­ga­niz­ing il­le­gal ac­tions, and even more so pro­vok­ing the par­tic­i­pa­tion of young peo­ple, chil­dren and so on in these ac­tions,” he said.

Rus­sia’s telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions author­ity, Roskom­nad­zor, said Fri­day that so­cial media plat­forms Tiktok, Youtube, In­sta­gram and Rus­sia’s Vkon­takte were heed­ing its de­mands to take down videos urg­ing “chil­dren” to par­tic­i­pate in Satur­day’s protests.

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