Russia’s Oscar-winning opposition is mired in battle


By Mark Trevelyan and Andrew Osborn

LONDON (Reuters) -Kremlin critics have been cheered this week when a Western documentary about jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny gained an Oscar, however his political motion is in turmoil and a few Ukrainian politicians say the award is undeserved.

Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most high-profile home critic, is serving 11-1/2 years in jail in Russia after being convicted of fraud in two instances he and the West say have been trumped as much as silence him, and his anti-corruption organisation has been banned as extremist.

His supporters forged him as a Russian model of Nelson Mandela who survived an assassination try and can in the future be free of unjust imprisonment to guide Russia. The lawyer-turned-activist stays a fierce Kremlin critic, releasing common statements by way of his attorneys from behind bars.

However his Anti-Corruption Basis (ACF), which now operates outdoors Russia, is reeling after his Chief of Employees Leonid Volkov admitted he had – with out his colleagues’ data – lobbied the European Union to carry sanctions on Mikhail Fridman, one in all Russia’s richest males.

Volkov apologised for what he mentioned was “a giant political mistake” and mentioned he was taking a break from his function as chairman of the ACF.

But some fellow opposition members have been livid, saying the ACF needs to be attempting to hasten Putin’s political demise fairly than serving to rich businessmen.

Vladimir Milov, a Navalny ally and a former deputy vitality minister, mentioned some within the opposition had proven themselves to be “super-naive” in in search of the lifting of sanctions on Fridman, whom he described as Russia’s “champion company raider”.

“It inflicts colossal injury on the picture of the Russian opposition,” mentioned Milov. “After this it will likely be vital to revive the repute of the Russian opposition within the West.”


The lobbying effort was made public in obvious revenge by Alexei Venediktov, a outstanding journalist who for years gave the opposition a platform on the Moscow radio station he ran whereas sustaining ties with the authorities.

Navalny’s workforce had accused Venediktov of taking thousands and thousands of {dollars} from the Moscow metropolis finances, which is managed by a Putin ally, to publish magazines. Venediktov admitted successful a publishing contract, however denied wrongdoing or making a revenue. Each he and Volkov have been designated “overseas brokers” by Moscow in April 2022.

Leonid Nevzlin, a tycoon and outstanding Israel-based Kremlin critic, mentioned on Twitter that the opposition wanted to unite.

“Whereas Ukraine is combating for its freedom, the Russian oppositionists have determined to open a second entrance… Sadly, to not struggle Putin, however to struggle amongst themselves,” he lamented.

Ksenia Thorstrom, an opposition politician from St Petersburg who has now left Russia, mentioned she too craved unity. “However sadly precisely the other is going on in the mean time,” she mentioned in a telephone interview.


The Oscar award additionally targeted consideration on Navalny’s stance on Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. That 12 months, he mentioned he didn’t suppose Crimea was a sandwich that might be handed forwards and backwards.

Navalny had lengthy mentioned he would maintain an sincere referendum asking Crimea’s residents which nation they needed to be a part of if he turned president. Final month, nonetheless, he modified tack and mentioned Russia should respect Ukraine’s 1991 borders.

Some Ukrainians have been unconvinced, and shocked that the documentary about him gained the Oscar fairly than a Ukrainian contender, a co-production referred to as “Home of Splinters” – which tells the story of an orphanage destroyed by Russian forces.

“Tonight proved as soon as once more that Russian propaganda works very properly and is aware of tips on how to promote pseudo-heroes the place there are not any heroes,” Azad Safarov, who helped make the Ukrainian co-production, mentioned on Fb.

Andriy Sadovyi, the Mayor of the Ukrainian metropolis of Lviv, recalled Navalny’s Crimea sandwich feedback with distaste.

“Navalny is a sandwich packed in a lunch field carried all over the world for example of the truth that there may be nonetheless opposition in Russia,” Sadovyi wrote on Twitter, including that it smelled of Russian propaganda and now of the Oscar statuette.

Maria Snegovaya, senior fellow on the Middle for Strategic and Worldwide Research, mentioned the opposition in exile’s messaging on the Ukraine struggle was hobbled by concern of alienating supporters in Russia, the place anti-war feeling is just not widespread.

“It has been a 12 months, and but the Russian opposition in exile stays much more disunited and the infighting continues,” she mentioned in a telephone interview.

Navalny alluded obliquely to the battle in a tweeted response to the Oscar on Wednesday, hailing these all over the world who “discover the power to confront the monster of dictatorship and its fixed companion, struggle”.

Nikita Yuferev, a Russian opposition municipal deputy now residing overseas, acknowledged disarray throughout the opposition however blamed a 20-year Kremlin crackdown. “It is headless, it is disoriented, however there are goal causes for that.”

Navalny ally Milov mentioned it could persevere.

“Issues and errors occur however we managed to outlive the horrible blow that Putin has been inflicting on us these previous couple of years,” Milov mentioned on YouTube.

    “We’re not about to surrender.”

(Writing by Andrew Osborn; enhancing by Philippa Fletcher)