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regular-article-logo Saturday, 20 April 2024

Don't lose hope, 'be more angry' after Alexei Navalny's death: Dmitry Gudkov

Russian opposition politician in exile Dmitry Gudkov said he hopes that Alexei Navalny's death will spur on opponents of Vladimir Putin, not intimidate them or lead them to despair

Deutsche Welle Published 21.02.24, 01:44 PM
A woman holds up a "Stop Putin" sign at a protest outside of the Russian embassy in Berlin

A woman holds up a "Stop Putin" sign at a protest outside of the Russian embassy in Berlin Deutsche Welle

Dmitry Gudkov, a former member of Russia's Duma lower chamber of parliament now in self-imposed exile and facing various charges at home, told DW he hoped that the death of Alexei Navalny would not lead to despair among Opposition supporters in Russia.

Asked what the Opposition in Russia lost with Navalny's death, Gudkov said he would hope "that we don't lose anything."

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"I read a lot of comments on this event on Facebook and other social media. People are saying that they they lost hope. But I don't think that we should lose hope. I think that we should be more angry. We should have more rage to fight against this corrupted and criminal regime. Because we have no choice," he said.

When the government kills its opponents "it means that the regime is too weak," he added.

Russian authorities meanwhile say that Navalny died suddenly after taking a walk at the remote "Polar Wolf" Arctic prison colony he had been relocated to shortly before his death.

It's not clear whether an autopsy has been conducted, five days after his death was announced. Navalny's mother on Tuesday again appealed for the return of her son's body.

DW's Riga Bureau Chief Juri Rescheto asked Gudkov, a former lawmaker in Russia's Duma, whose father Gennady was also in the parliament, how the death might affect the mood ahead of next month's elections in Russia.

"I think that some people will be or have already been terrorized and threatened. But as I can see, many people have more rage," he responded.

Gudkov said the opposition was planning a special form of protest or demonstration, whereby Navalny's supporters would be encouraged to all come to vote at the same time, midday, on the third and final day of voting in Russia, March 17.

"On March 17th we will arrange a big protest called 'noon against Putin'," saying this would be the "last political will" of Navalny.

People would be urged, he said, "to participate not in the elections — we don't call it elections — [but] to come to the polling station at the same day, same time, to become visible. To show and to demonstrate that there are a lot of people in Russia standing against the war, against [President] Vladimir Putin, against his dictatorship and against his criminal regime."

He also noted how Navalny's widow, Yuliya Navalnaya, had signaled her intention to pick up her husband's political activities and said how he and his allies hoped and planned to cooperate with her.

Putin, like Soviet mineral water, popular when facing 'no competition'

When DW noted how Putin's popularity appears to remain rather robust in Russia, Gudkov did not object, but he drew an analogy from his childhood in the former Soviet Union as it was collapsing.

"In the Soviet Union, when I was very small, I remember that the mineral water from the water machine was very popular. Because there was no competition ... you know, in the market. But when Coca-Cola appeared in the market, nobody just used that water machine," he said.

He said he believed that in a fair fight, unlike the situation characterized by "no competition" as at present, "Putin would lose the campaign to Navalny or someone else."

Gudkov was a member of the Russian Duma between 2011 and 2016, like his father Gennady before him. Both were members of the A Just Russia party, as it was known at the time. The group is broadly centrist but also seen as sympathetic to or cooperative with Putin's United Russia party. He fell out with its leadership, left, and was briefly detained in June 2021 but then released.

He left the country soon after, saying it had been made clear to him he would continue to be chased by the law.

After the invasion of Ukraine, he joined the Antiwar Committee, an umbrella group of opposition figures founded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky and also including former chess world champion Garry Kasparov.

He said in October that he had been charged with disseminating "fake news" by the Kremlin. Russia's Interior Ministry, which does not typically issue specific reasons for its arrest warrants, lists him as a wanted individual.

Gudkov disputed the notion that Navalny's death was accompanied by the death of opposition in Russia, although he said he did not find the term opposition accurate at present.

"The opposition is not [the] proper word for us because the opposition means that it's like political power, well-organized, participating in the elections and trying to fight for the power," Gudkov said. "And of course, we're not the opposition. We're dissidents. But that's the specificity of dictatorship. Today you're the dissident, yeah? Tomorrow, you are president. It may happen, just, very fast."

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