In Russia, the opposition heals its wounds

No demonstrations this weekend. After two weeks of protest, Alexeï Navalny’s team, the opponent arrested on his return to Russia on January 17 and sentenced this week to almost three years in prison, has resigned himself to a break.

→ STORY. Russia: Alexeï Navalny sentenced to two years and eight months in prison

“If we go out into the streets every week, thousands of people will be arrested, hundreds beaten. The regional offices will be paralyzed and it will be impossible for us to prepare for the elections. This is not what Alexeï wants from us ”, said Leonid Volkov, one of the opponent’s right-hand men, in a video posted on YouTube.

Unprecedented arrests

A change of strategy which follows two particularly tough weeks for the opposition. While it succeeded on January 23 and 31 in bringing tens of thousands of people to the streets across Russia, the ferocity of the Kremlin’s response has left its mark. The NGO “OVD-Info”, specializing in monitoring demonstrations, thus counted more than 5,000 arrests on the day of January 31, unheard of since the arrival of Vladimir Putin to power. As for the arrests which followed in the capital the announcement of the imprisonment of Alexey Navaly on February 2, they saturated the Moscow detention centers, forcing the authorities to transfer nearly 800 people to a prison 80 kilometers from Moscow. .

→ ANALYSIS. In Russia, after the arrest of Alexey Navalny, Vladimir Putin ready for confrontation

Visiting Moscow, the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell demanded the release of Alexei Navalny but at the same time he refused to attempt to visit the opponent, who was tried at the same time for a defamation case. Such a visit “Would send the wrong signal” and “Would give the impression that the EU supports his condemnation” said a European spokesperson from Brussels. Symbol of a relationship between the EU and Moscow ” at the lowest “ According to Josep Borrell, Moscow at the same time announced the expulsion of three Western diplomats (German, Polish and Swedish) accused of having gone to a demonstration in support of Alexeï Navalny.

“Rational decision”

The supporters of the latter have failed to repeat the feat of the Belarusian opposition which, this summer, had several weeks in a row gathered more than 100,000 demonstrators in the capital. “What is very important is that almost all the leaders of the Navalny organization in the regions have been arrested, which means that they have lost all their coordination capacity”, explains Kirill Shamiev, a Russian doctoral researcher at the Central European University in Vienna. Combined with the presence of Alexeï Navalny himself behind bars, “The public could demobilize” he adds, seeing then in the choice not to call for new demonstrations a “Rational decision”.

In the crosshairs of the opposition are now the legislative elections in September, on which the supporters of Alexeï Navalny intend to influence thanks to a strategy called “Smart Vote”. Objective: to damage as much as possible the presidential party “United Russia” by supporting the candidates facing it, regardless of their political formation. The Navalny team at the same time assured that the demonstrations for the release of the opponent would resume soon. “We are preparing something big in the spring, and this summer, said Leonid Volkov. We are not giving up on our demands. “

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