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Russia’s Oscar-winning opposition mired in conflict


Critics of the Kremlin were cheered this week when a Western documentary about jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny won an Oscar, but its political movement is in turmoil and some Ukrainian politicians say the award is undeserved.

Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent domestic critic, is serving an 11-and-a-half-year prison sentence in Russia after being convicted of fraud in two cases he and the West say were fabricated to silence him , as well as his anti-corruption organization was banned as extremist.

His supporters cast him as a Russian version of Nelson Mandela who survived an assassination attempt and will one day be freed from unjust imprisonment to lead Russia. The lawyer-turned-activist remains a fierce critic of the Kremlin, regularly releasing statements through his lawyers behind bars.

But his Anti-Corruption Foundation (ACF), which now operates outside Russia, is in shock after his chief of staff Leonid Volkov admitted he had – unbeknownst to his colleagues – pressured the European Union to lift sanctions against Mikhail Fridman, one of the richest in Russia. Men.

Volkov apologized for what he called a “big political mistake” and said he was taking a break from his role as ACF president.

Still, some opposition colleagues were furious, saying the ACF should try to hasten Putin’s political demise rather than help wealthy businessmen.

Vladimir Milov, a Navalny ally and former deputy energy minister, said some opposition members had been “super naive” in calling for the lifting of sanctions against Fridman, whom he described as the “corporate champion of Russia”.

“It inflicts colossal damage to the image of the Russian opposition,” Milov said. “After that, it will be necessary to restore the reputation of the Russian opposition in the West.”

The lobbying effort was publicized in apparent revenge by Alexei Venediktov, a prominent journalist who for years gave the opposition a platform on the Moscow radio station he ran while maintaining ties to the authorities.

Navalny’s team had accused Venediktov of taking millions of dollars from the budget of the city of Moscow, controlled by an ally of Putin, to publish magazines. Venediktov admitted winning a publishing deal, but denied wrongdoing or making a profit. He and Volkov were designated “foreign agents” by Moscow in April 2022.

Leonid Nevzlin, an Israel-based tycoon and prominent Kremlin critic, said on Twitter that the opposition must unite.

“While Ukraine is fighting for its freedom, Russian opponents have decided to open a second front… Unfortunately, not to fight Putin, but to fight each other,” he lamented.

Ksenia Thorstrom, an opposition politician from St Petersburg who has now left Russia, said she too is hungry for unity. “But unfortunately, the exact opposite is happening right now,” she said in a phone interview.

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