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納凡尼將繼續奮鬥-Amy Knight
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迺特博士是位俄國專家。下文原載於2020 的線上《紐約書評》;俄國異議份子領袖納凡尼先生過世後,該刊《通訊》在02/18重登此文。

我常常在網路新聞上看到納凡尼先生大名,但不熟悉他的事蹟。轉登這篇文章謹表敬意與悼念。


Aleksei Navalny, Ready to Run Again in Russia

The Russian opposition politician, who narrowly escaped death by nerve agent poisoning, remains undeterred from challenging Puttin’s hegemony.

Amy Knight, 12/03/20

Though not yet restored to full health, Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny is recovering in Germany from the poisoning that almost killed him and is preparing to return to Russia to continue his fight for democracy. As he shared on Instagram last week, with a photo of himself in a tracksuit, he was about to begin jogging again: “I’ll let you know how it goes. You should start running too…If they poison you with chemicals, maybe it will save you as well!” 

Navalny’s recovery—which he attributes to his excellent physical shape before the poisoning—is remarkable considering that, at one point, he was not expected to survive. While flying from the Siberian city of Tomsk to Moscow on August 20, after several days of campaigning for candidates in local elections, Navalny fell violently ill. The plane’s pilot made an emergency landing in Omsk, where Navalny was rushed to a local hospital and placed in a medically induced coma. Emergency room doctors immediately suspected that Navalny had been poisoned with a nerve agent and treated him with atropine, which works against such toxins as a blocker, although Omsk officials later denied this.

After two days in Omsk, Navalny was flown by an air ambulance to Berlin, Germany, where he was treated at the Charité hospital by specialists who subsequently determined that he had indeed been poisoned with a nerve agent, and one of military grade known as Novichok, which is produced only by the Russian state. Their findings were confirmed by specialists from Sweden and France, as well as by the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). After regaining consciousness on September 7, Navalny remained in the hospital until September 22, when he was discharged to an undisclosed location in Germany for further rehabilitation. 

Not surprisingly, the Kremlin has refused to initiate a criminal investigation of the incident, instead offering alternative theories about what happened. In a September phone call to French President Emmanuel Macron, Putin suggested that Navalny may have poisoned himself, while authorities in Omsk said Navalny had suffered an attack of pancreatitis. In early November, the chief of Russia’s SVR , its foreign intelligence agency, Sergei Naryshkin, said it was possible that Western security services had poisoned Navalny in order to make Russia look bad. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speculated that Navalny had been poisoned after his arrival in Germany.

At a two-day conference of the OPCW this week, delegates from more than fifty countries, including the United States, condemned the attack on Navalny “in the strongest possible terms,” and the German delegation called on Russia to cooperate fully with the organization and disclose what it knows about the circumstances of the poisoning. The Russian delegation responded by accusing Germany and its allies of unleashing a “mass disinformation campaign” against Russia. 

For his part, Navalny is doing more than jogging while he remains in Germany. In addition to posting on social media, he appeared last Friday via video link before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, along with three other prominent Russian oppositionists, to push for stronger measures against the Kremlin’s human rights abuses. Speaking in English, Navalny said that penalizing only the officials who are directly responsible for Russia’s criminal actions, as was done with his poisoning, will not be effective because these officials are colonels, generals, and mid-level operatives who do not travel abroad or own assets overseas. Instead, he advised, the European Union should target its sanctions at the wealthy oligarchs who have accumulated their fortunes under Putin’s corrupt rule. Navalny did not mince words: “Let me say it straight. As long as the most expensive yacht of Mr. Usmanov [Alisher Usmanov, a Kremlin-backed industrialist worth more than $11 billion] is anchored in Barcelona or in Monaco, no one in Russia or even in the Kremlin will treat European sanctions seriously.”  

One of those who appeared with Navalny, the leading Russian oppositionist Vladimir Kara-Murza, who has twice been the victim of serious poisoning, added that they were not asking the Europeans to interfere in Russia’s internal politics: “It is only for Russian citizens to bring political change to Russia…What we do expect is that you stay true to your values, that you stop enabling those corrupt and abusive officials and oligarchs who want to steal from our people.”


Navalny echoed the need for a similar distinction betweenthe Russians, who should be welcomed and treated warmly, and the Russian state, which should be perceived as a gang of criminals.” He also assured the European parliamentarians that such sanctions would have the support of 99 percent of the Russian population. 

But some Russian political observers have expressed doubts about Navalny’s strategy. Independent journalist Sergei Parkhomenko said last week that Navalny’s efforts to galvanize European public opinion in defense of Russian democracy could be used by Kremlin propagandists to discredit him at home by accusing him of collaborating with foreigners whose interests are against those of Russia. That has already been happening: when, on October 1, Navalny gave an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel accusing Putin of ordering his poisoning, the Kremlin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, claimed that the Russian government had evidence that Navalny was working for the CIA. In response, Navalny filed a defamation suit against Peskov in a Moscow district court, which he mentioned on Instagram: “I usually don’t sue propagandists—I see no reason to waste time, but Peskov is not just a person whose job is to lie…. He is a high-ranking official. His boss gave the order to kill me. And Peskov should keep quiet about ‘abroad’…you can make a platoon of NATO soldiers from his children [who live in Europe].”


The influential Moscow economist Vladislav Inozemtsev recently argued that, despite the adverse international publicity, the Kremlin’s attack on Navalny may not have harmed the regime much at home because it turned Navalny from a highly popular politician into a much less significant emigrant. “After being poisoned, Aleksei Anatolyevich’s rating soared, and in the list of public figures whom Russians trusted the most, he reached the fourth position,” Inozemtsev wrote. “However, everything—or almost everything—has changed a lot lately.” In a reference to Vladimir Lenin’s legendary 1917 arrival from exile by railway at St. Petersburg, which sparked the Bolshevik Revolution, Inozemtsev noted of Navalny’s planned return to his country, “this will not be another celebrated homecoming at the Finland Station.”


While acknowledging that the Russian audience for Navalny’s blog and YouTube channel, in which he regularly exposes official corruption, exceeded 4 million at one point, Inozemtsev dismissed the Internet as a real platform for political opposition in Russia: “The mobilization achieved by the Internet remains largely superficial. In Russia, ‘democracy’ or ‘a country without crooks and thieves’ [a favorite slogan of Navalny’s] are perceived positively as an ideal, but they do not generate readiness to fight for this ideal.” To illustrate his point, Inozemtsev noted that, in contrast to Belarus, there has been little public backlash against the increasingly repressive methods of the Kremlin regime to suppress democratic activism. 

But Navalny is an astute political strategist with a keen understanding of the Russian political mood, even from afar. As Vladimir Milov, who appeared with Navalny before the European Parliament, explained recently on YouTube, Navalny is intent on differentiating himself from other Russian oppositionists who have been forced into exile. (Former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who resides in London and has spent much of his fortune on efforts to discredit Putin, is one example.) Rather than making speeches to his supporters from abroad, Navalny will wait to speak directly to his people until he is back on Russian soil. In the meantime, Milov said, Navalny’s competent and dedicated team, part of his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), continues the struggle in Russia, maintaining forty offices throughout the country.


The timing of Navalny’s return to Russia is uncertain, because he continues to require physical therapy. Navalny noted on Instagram that he is still experiencing some numbness in one leg. (As the March 2018 poisonings in Britain of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia make clear, Novichok’s effects on the body can be long-lasting. In a recent telephone call to her cousin in Russia, Yulia Skripal said that her father still has a breathing tube because his nasopharynx muscles were partially paralyzed from the poison, while she has continuing problems with her vision.)  

But Navalny will be back in his country well before the pivotal September 2021 parliamentary elections, when he and his team will put all their efforts into defeating the candidates of the Kremlin-sponsored United Russia party. They will build on the same strategy of “smart voting” they used in the September 2020 elections, which involves persuading voters to rally around the candidate who has the best chance of defeating the United Russia candidate. Navalny’s team continued to campaign in Siberia after his poisoning, and two were elected members of municipal councils, in Novosibirsk and Tomsk. Overall, United Russia lost 10 percent of its seats in regional and city legislatures across the country. As The Economist observed: “They [Navalny’s team] showed that Mr. Navalny’s appeal extends well beyond Moscow and that the grip of the pro-Kremlin parties can sometimes be overcome.”


Veteran Russian journalist Yevgenia Albats, currently a scholar at Harvard’s Davis Center, expressed her frustration on Monday with Americans who tell her that Navalny has the support of only a small percentage of the Russian population. “Opinion polls are meaningless under an authoritarian regime,” she pointed out, “not to mention that Alexei Navalny tried nine times to register his own party with the Ministry of Justice, and he was never allowed to do so.” As Navalny himself quipped, “we successfully win elections that they don’t even let us run in.”


How will the Kremlin react to Navalny’s return? Further attempts to harm Navalny physically would arouse an international outcry and draw more support for Navalny’s cause from the Russian public. But Russian authorities could well harass him legally, with arrests and spurious charges, as they have done many times in the past. Just this week, Russian law enforcement sources reported that they were considering charges of “extremism” against Navalny for comments he made last April in an interview on the Moscow-based radio station Ekho Moskvy that allegedly implied the violent overthrow of the regime. (In fact, Navalny was putting forth a plan to address the coronavirus epidemic.)


The Kremlin has plenty of other means at its disposal to hinder the efforts of Navalny and his team. In October, a Moscow court fined Navalny’s lawyer, Lyubov Sobol, almost $400,000 for defaming a school lunch catering firm owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin (who is nicknamed “Putin’s chef,” an ironic title since he is better known for running Russian-backed mercenary operations overseas). And in early November, police raided the Moscow offices of the FBK and opened a criminal case against its director, Ivan Zhdanov. As Navalny said in an October interview: “The authorities now use ways to pressure us that we couldn’t imagine three years ago.” 

Navalny’s wife, Yulia, who is with him in Germany, told an interviewer in October that she had no fear of their return to Russia, but that they should wait until her husband is completely well: “I told Aleksei: ‘I know you want to head back as soon as possible, but I want you to fully recover first, because I don’t know what is going to happen in Russia, and if you’re not fully recovered we may not be able to save you a second time.’ I think he heard me.” Unfortunately, the most convincing testimony to Aleksei Navalny’s effectiveness as an opposition politician is the threat he poses to the Kremlin’s political survival and the trouble to which Putin and allies are willing to go in attempting to destroy him. 


Amy Knight’s most recent book is Orders to Kill: The Putin Regime and Political Murder. She is a former Woodrow Wilson Fellow. (April 2023)

More by Amy Knight


Putin’s Folly, April 6, 2023 issue
Whose Liberation?, May 27, 2021 issue
The Long Afterlife of the KGB, December 5, 2020


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Navalny’s Widow Pledges to Carry On Opposition Leader’s Work

The sudden death of Aleksei Navalny left a vacuum in Russia’s opposition. His wife, Yulia Navalnaya, signaled that she might try to fill the void.

Paul Sonne/Ivan Nechepurenko, 02/19/24

The widow of Aleksei A. Navalny said on Monday that she would carry on her husband’s work to bring about a democratic and free Russia, presenting herself for the first time as a political force and calling on his followers to rally alongside her.

Mr. Navalny’s sudden death in prison, which was announced by the Russian authorities on Friday, left a vacuum in Russia’s opposition. His supporters had wondered whether his wife, Yulia Navalnaya — who long shunned the spotlight — might step in to fill the void.

In a 
video released on Monday, Ms. Navalnaya, 47, signaled that she would. She said she was appearing on her late husband’s YouTube channel for the first time to tell his followers that the most important thing that they could do to honor his legacy was “to fight more desperately and furiously than before.”

“I am going to continue the work of Aleksei Navalny and continue to fight for our country,” Ms. Navalnaya said. “I call on you to stand beside me, to share not only in the grief and endless pain that has enveloped us and won’t let go. I ask you to share my rage — to share my rage, anger and hatred of those who have dared to kill our future.”

The nearly nine-minute video was crafted as an introduction of sorts to a new leader of the pro-democracy movement against President Vladimir V. Putin. It comes at a time when those opposed to the Kremlin strongman, who have sought to unite, feel more dispirited than ever.

The Death of Aleksei Navalny

The anticorruption activist, who led the political opposition in President Vladimir Putin’s Russia, died in a Russian prison. He was 47.

*  A Stunned Opposition: Navalny’s death has been a blow to the Russian opposition movement in which he was the figurehead. 
But it has also raised hopes of a united front against Putin.
Prison Conditions: The cause of Navalny’s death has not been established, but Russia’s harshest penal colonies are 
known for hazardous conditions, and Navalny was singled out for particularly brutal treatment.
Small Acts of Protest: At least 400 people have been 
detained at Navalny memorials across Russia since his death, according to a human rights group. Those who came to lay flowers found solace in the company of others.
2022 Documentary: “Navalny,” an Oscar-winning film, followed the dissident after an attempt on his life. It played like a thriller at the time, but today it feels even more chilling, 
our critic writes.

Ms. Navalnaya had often pushed back against suggestions that she enter politics,
telling Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine last year that “I don’t think this is an idea I want to play with.”

On Monday, she presented a different face in trying to rally her husband’s followers.

“I know it feels impossible to do any more, but we have to — to come together in one strong fist and strike with it at this maddened regime, at Putin, at his friends and his bandits in uniform, at these thieves and killers who have crippled our country,” she said.

The 
cause of Mr. Navalny’s death has not been established, and its circumstances have raised suspicions. President Biden blamed Mr. Putin personally, saying, “Make no mistake: Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death.”

Ms. Navalnaya echoed that sentiment, which is shared by many of her husband’s supporters, on Monday in her video.

“In killing Aleksei, Putin killed half of me, half of my heart and half of my soul,” Ms. Navalnaya, Mr. Navalny’s widow, said. “But I have another half left and it is telling me I have no right to give up.”

Her rousing message came as Mr. Navalny’s aides said that the opposition leader’s mother remained blocked from seeing her son’s body. Mr. Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, 
said the authorities had told his mother that the investigation into his death “has been extended” for an uncertain amount of time — and blocked her from seeing her son’s body.

“One of the lawyers was literally pushed out” from the morgue in the Arctic where Mr. Navalny’s body is believed to be, Ms. Yarmysh said in 
a post on the social media platform X. She added in another post, “They lie, buy time for themselves and do not even hide it.”

Russian investigators initiated an inquiry into the causes of Mr. Navalny’s death shortly after it was reported, a procedural move that allows them to hold the body for longer than normal.

Ivan Zhdanov, the head of Mr. Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, said that the delay meant that Russian officials were “cleaning up traces of their crime.”

“They are waiting for the wave of hatred and rage toward them to calm down,” Mr. Zhdanov said in 
a post on Telegram, the messaging app.

The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, rejected any suggestion of impropriety on Monday, saying that the investigation into Mr. Navalny’s death has been continuing “in accordance with the Russian law.”

More than 50,000 people have signed a petition to Russian investigators demanding the release of Mr. Navalny’s body, a campaign initiated by a Russia-based human rights group, OVD-Info.

Mourners have brought flowers to makeshift memorials across Russia, paying tribute to Mr. Navalny with an act of grief that has also served as a form of protest in a country where even the mildest dissent can risk detention.

The Russian authorities have tried to tamp down the scale of public mourning over Mr. Navalny’s death. Flowers have been quickly removed from memorials and the police have detained hundreds of people.

Anton Troianovski contributed reporting.

Paul Sonne is an international correspondent, focusing on Russia and the varied impacts of President Vladimir V. Putin’s domestic and foreign policies, with a focus on the war against Ukraine. More about Paul Sonne
Ivan Nechepurenko covers Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, the countries of the Caucasus, and Central Asia. He is based in Moscow. More about Ivan Nechepurenko

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