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Mikhail Khodorkovsky (R), a Putin critic like jailed leader Alexei Navalny (L), says the latter’s party can’t entertain the idea of multiple leaders fighting to dethrone the Russian President. (Image: Reuters)
A closed door meeting in Brussels saw Russian opposition leaders fail to agree to fight for a common cause with fights over who should lead – jailed leader Navalny or activist Khodorkovsky.Russian opposition leaders, barring jailed critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Alexei Navalny, gathered in Brussels last week to discuss how to make democracy work in Russia but ended up criticising and squabbling at one another, the Financial Times said in a report.
Other than Navalny the only opposition leader who has some authority is Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was once Russia’s richest man and is currently the main political opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Financial Times report pointed out that war has further divided Russia’s dissidents as no opposition party wants to wish a military defeat or echo Kyiv’s demands for reparations. The ideas, according to the report, are being seen in Russian opposition circles as ‘politically toxic’.
Andrius Kubilius, a Lithuanian member of the European Parliament (MEP), who helped set up the meeting also acknowledged while speaking to the Financial Times that there are infightings amongst the Russian opposition leaders.
A senior Ukrainian official said that Russian opposition leaders often start their discussions on how to bring about a change in Russia by pointing at each other’s errors.
The report also points out that the members of Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (ACF), which operates out of Lithuania, declined invitations to the conference.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky told the Financial Times that Navalny’s party does not want to entertain the idea that there can be several leaders instead of just one leader while referring to queries of who should lead the opposition.
Navalny’s chief of staff Leonid Volkov said the ACF did not join the meeting because it did not want to be clubbed along with political parties with whom it does not share similar views.
The Financial Times report highlighted that when a couple of years ago Navalny’s movement drew crowds in Russia, it was due to the Putin critic’s focus on issues concerning the Russian population. It says that the opposition leader avoided western embassy parties and travels to European conferences unlike other opposition parties’ leaders.
Russia has warned that anyone seen associating with Navalny and his movement will face potential arrest and due to this his organisation have failed to take out massive rallies. The opposition leader being poisoned in 2020 and his arrest has attracted global attention.
A Navalny advisor told the Financial Times that after all the political capital the ACF has accumulated, it does not want to be ‘one’ of the opposition groups.
Khodorkovsky on the other hand has failed to attract as many Russians like Navalny and the report said that he spent bulk of his time criticising the jailed leader and his team during an interview.
During another meeting, both Navalny’s and his team got into such a heated argument that the moderator had to pull the mic out of the one of the member’s hands.
Khodorkovsky, however, says that under current circumstances it will be hard for the ACF to regroup without their leader even if their desire is to work for the Russian people.
“They are in the same position . . . as everyone else,” Khodorkovsky was quoted as saying by the Financial Times. He further added that his party is not “ready to expose supporters” to reprisal from the Kremlin.
Shankhyaneel Sarkar is a senior subeditor at News18, covering international issues. He is an Arsenal fan, and in his free time, he enjoys exploring of