A blue print for a modern, post-Putin Russia

Fears are growing for the jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny whose health is deteriorating with chills, fever and severe cough. In a brave show of force, some five hundred Russian doctors have signed an open letter to Vladimir Putin demanding an end to the ‘abuse of Alexei Navalny’.

Alexi Navalny, 46, has long been the most prominent face of Russian opposition.  Even from prison, he and his team had been mapping out a road map for the emergence of a democratic, modern Russia after Putin goes.

On Thursday evening, in a Liberal Democrat European Group webinar debate, I will be in an hour-long conversation with Navalny’s close friend and former campaign chief-of-staff, Leonid Volkov, currently in exile in Lithuania. Navalny and Volkov came to prominence through the freshness of their vision, their anti-corruption campaigns and their skills at deploying the Internet and live streaming to get their message across to millions.

Volkov was raised among Jewish academics in the city of Yekaterinburg where he ran a successful software company and, in 2008, was elected as the only independent city counciller in a pro-Putin chamber. He became Navalny’s chief-of-staff for his 2013 Moscow mayoral campaign and his presidential campaign against Putin in 2018.

“I do strongly believe that one day Russia will become a free and democratic country, a part of European family, where it belongs by its whole culture and history,” he says.

But how?  Putin might go, but his destructive ideas will linger.

From Iraq to the Philippines to Myanmar to Russia itself, we have learned about the long, hard intractable journey from dictatorship to democracy. Entrenched, corrupt institutions, like military, media, and judiciary, need to become strong and impartial enough to handle vested interests and electoral unpredictability. The process should be measured not in years or electoral cycles but in decades and generations.  Western democracies have often been too impatient as to how long change takes.

Navalny and Volkov champion the freedom and human rights that we take for granted. But how would they navigate those opposition forces afraid of their vision together with inevitable pressure from Western democracies to deliver quickly?

Could they ever succeed?


Join Humphrey with Leonid Volkov to discuss this challenge and hear first-hand the latest on the prison ordeal of Alexei Navalny — 7pm, Thursday January 19th  in a Liberal Democrat European Group debate. Registration

* Humphrey Hawksley is a member of the Hammersmith and Fulham Local Party and on the Executive of the Liberal Democrat European Group.

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This entry was posted in Europe / International and Events.

One Comment

  • While agreeing with the vast majority of this article, it says one thing that is totally mistaken and very dangerous as it might encourage others to do the same, and that comes in the very first sentence where it says “In a brave show of force, some five hundred Russian doctors have signed an open letter to Vladimir Putin ..”

    Sadly all this will do is allow Putin’s minions to mark these good people off on their list for reprisals, which will inevitably come. We all know that Russia is an authoritarian dictatorship and vengence is its weapon of choice. You don’t defeat such an enemy by sacrificing yourself for a quick headline. As George Patton famously said “No dumb bastard ever won a war by going out and dying for his country. He won it by making some other dumb bastard die for his.”

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