Letter From the Editors

Aleksei Navalny’s tragic and sudden death in an Arctic prison colony last week has shaken supporters of a free and democratic Russia to the core. It seems that with his passing, the last hope of challenging – and changing – the regime died, too. Yulia Navalnaya disagrees. In a video posted after her husband’s death, Aleksei’s widow promised to continue carrying his torch for “as long as it takes. Just as fiercely and just as bravely as Aleksei himself.” Experts interviewed by Republic say that Navalnaya is actually the perfect candidate to unite the opposition in Russia and rally her compatriots. “She does not have the baggage of old grudges and bad blood. She has never been involved in any intrigues or scandals. . . . If anyone ever dares to attack Yulia, criticize her, undermine her or discredit her, that will be political suicide.*** She can run [for office] even under current Russian laws, because there’s no dirt on her, and you can’t even invent it,” says Maksim Kats.

However, some caution that she may end up in a similar position to Belarussian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who was hugely popular after her bid to challenge Lukashenko in 2020, but “failed to gain prominence among the opposition after she left Belarus.” This is indeed the double-edged sword for those brave enough to stand up to autocrats – and perhaps the reason that Navalny returned to Russia after his Novichok poisoning attempt. Of course, according to Navalnaya, a comfortable exile was not even an option for Aleksei: “He could have stopped speaking out, stopped investigating, stopped fighting, right? No, he couldn’t have,” because of his love for his country.

Another opposition leader (albeit on more friendly terms with the regime), Boris Nadezhdin, lost his bid to get on the presidential ballot for the March 2024 election. While many saw this coming, Nadezhdin vowed to appeal the decision of the court, which ruled that the CEC’s move to invalidate some signatures was above board. Nadezhdin’s team invited some of the signatories to corroborate that they did indeed sign for Nadezhdin. One voter, an artist named Natalya Malysheva, confirmed that she did sign the petition and even complained that her “artistic signature” was difficult to fit in the small space. But artistic license was an insufficient argument, and the judge chose “form over substance,” ruling in favor of the CEC.

Courts may also be busy in the coming weeks, since Russian legislators, ever watchful for any hints of external influence, came up with an initiative to deprive “foreign agents” of ad revenue from domestic sources. But as NG’s Ivan Rodin points out, one point of the draft law can basically be read so broadly that even citing or referencing a “foreign agent” source would land a media outlet in trouble. Just when you didn’t think that press freedom could take any more of a hit in Russia. –

As the rift between the East and West continues to widen, SIPRI’s Dan Smith sees little reason for optimism. Interviewed by Izvestia on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference (which Russia was not invited to, but no surprise there), he says that the war in Ukraine will likely last into 2024, since both sides are digging in their heels. Yet the West still believes that it’s possible to defeat Russia on the battlefield – provided Ukraine gets enough military and financial aid. And therein lies the rub, mostly in the shape of Donald Trump, who may retake the Oval Office in November after all. Perhaps as a way to hedge its bets, Kiev dispatched Prime Minister Denis Shmygal to Tokyo this week to seek Japanese investment in the Ukrainian economy. According to the PM, Ukraine could demonstrate the same “economic miracle” that Japan did following World War II. But expert Igor Yushkov cautioned that the Japanese will most likely treat the proposal with caution – and invest the bare minimum, as before. So it may be form over substance for Kiev, as well.