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Uladzimir Matskevich: It is possible that Kremlin intentionally promotes Alexey Navalny

25.07.2013  |  Politics   |  EuroBelarus Information Service,  
Uladzimir Matskevich: It is possible that Kremlin intentionally promotes Alexey Navalny

Denouncement and following release of Russian politician Alexey Navalny can be connected with the intention of the official Kremlin to increase his influence on opposition field.

This suggestion made Uladzimir Matskevich, the head of the Board of the International Consortium “EuroBelarus”.

- Alexey Navalny’s sentence shows that Russia as well as Belarus doesn’t shun criminal prosecution of political opponents. Can we say that our eastern neighbor adopts Belarusan methods?

- The resemblance between Belarusan and Putin’s regimes was noted long ago as well as the practice of adopting these or those forms of governance and political regulation by Russia. But it shouldn’t conceal the difference between Belarusan and Russian political practice.

Indeed there are a lot of such differences. They are connected with the differences between our countries and the state of political culture. But I would note that in Russian politics even if it adopts Belarusan forms it is more creative, clever and uses more imagination.

On the contrary, Belarusan political struggle isn’t notable for imagination. It is very straightforward, old-fashioned, etc. If they put somebody into prison they do it. If then as a result of bargaining the prisoner is to be released – he is released. If they put pressure on somebody they do it, whereas in such situations in Russia they try to play more complicated games.

And now there is an amusing incident with Navalny, who was convicted but is released. It adds a certain image and status to him in the opposition environment. And it may well be so that in such a way he is promoted intentionally as a figure who is odious enough, scandalous, pushing but at the same time  safe for the regime. It is made in order to accumulate somehow a protesting part of the society around him. But it is very difficult for me to speak about the long-range goals of this game from Belarus.

- The authorities put Belarusan political prisoners behind bars in order to isolate them and take away from the political life.  But Russian authorities treated Navalny right the other way – they released him to enable him to take part in elections for the post of Moscow mayor.

-Frankly speaking, such a policy is also practiced in Belarus. We have already had precedents when authorities’ repressions were used to attach prestige to some people in the opposition environment. And then they continued their activities rather quietly (as far as it is possible in Belarus). The thing is that such incidents didn’t become widespread and were not disseminated.

I don’t think that it can also become a widespread practice in Russia. It is quite unique methods; thus, they can’t be widespread. Not every oppositionist fits for such a role. And here, probably, such suppositions and even facts have to be treated with a lot of doubt.

In Belarus, Russia as well as in international practice it happened often that some figures were promoted within the country in order to oust them in emigration afterwards. There they, on the one hand, attract protesting electorate’s attention to themselves. On the other hand, being in emigration, they are absolutely powerless to do anything with this part of the society but for writing appeals.

-Navalny’s sentence made thousands of protesting people go out to the streets of Moscow. But the same didn’t occur in Belarus. What is the reason: are there different situations or different technologies applied by Navalny and Belarusan oppositionists?

-Let’s remember Belarusan historical practice, shall we. In Belarus very diverse events have happened during the 19 years, including the situations when an oppositionist’s release provoked strong reaction. For instance, Kazulin was met with joy when releasing from prison.

Now the situation is a bit different, because a lot of mistakes have been made by the opposition along with the quite provocative moves of the authorities when many political structures and leaders have been discredited and there is no faith and love of protesting public for them.

Now even those people who are behind bars and who are treated positively, for example, Paval Sieviaryniets and Zmicier Dashkevich are not very influential and are not regarded as such promising figures so as to gather the biggest part of the public around them. Probably, Sieviaryniets could be such a figure. But being mostly a positive and attractive figure he is held behind bars longer than others, which deprives him of an opportunity to act.

- During the time spent behind bars Belarusan political prisoners more often lost their repute, popularity in the society. Is the same likely to happen with Navalny?

- Mostly it is determined by the actions, behavior and motivation of the political leaders themselves. Correction facilities or the practice of the authorities can hardly influence seriously what these people will do after their release from prison and how they will be treated.

As for Navalny, he is a very ambiguous figure. I would say that he is an absolutely positive leader. There are a lot of scandals around him. Probably, the Russian authorities have some prepared moves against Navalny to keep him afloat, to keep interest in him, for instance, by indicting him once more and limiting his activity at the same time.

At any rate either conditional sentence or relative stay at large restricts the politician in his freedom to act.  Take Irina Khalip, for example, who was released from serving her sentence. She was not imprisoned, she stayed at home but it was a very serious limitation of her potential. That is why emigration as well as staying under police surveillance lowers potential and opportunities for political activity.

It is possible that there are constraints prepared for Navalny in order for him not to get out of the authorities’ control. I don’t think that Putin’s or Lukashenka’s regimes are capable of humane actions in such situations. Every move, such as the release of a political prisoner or withdrawal of charge, are undertaken not because of humane reasons, but due to the game of politics and political bargaining. 

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