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Research means work

On Saturday, 13 February 2021, Andreas Rüesch, the NZZ’s foreign editor in charge of Russia, published an editorial on Russia as a front-page editor. The issue was Navalny and Putin’s future. In his text, the words “opposition” and “opposition” are used several times, but Rüesch has refrained – intentionally or negligently – from saying what this opposition looks like in Russia in the first place.

We all know that Navalny is opposition to Putin. But what does Navalny stand for? What is the political program of this Putin critic, who, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and despite all the Corona-related bans on gatherings, called for demonstrations? And who is behind Navalny? Is he the right man to be elevated by Western countries to freedom heroes?

On August 20, 2020, Navalny was allegedly poisoned. Six months have passed since then. And he is still treated as if he represents “the” opposition in Russia. Even the “echo of time” of Swiss Radio SRF, something of the best that can be “consumed” in terms of international information, only recently, on 16 February, in a short report from the Russian province for the first time, made it clear for the first time that Navalny is not simply “the” representative of the opposition, but, on the contrary, is even clearly rejected by certain groups of the opposition – with good reason.

Where is independent information?

The Western pro-NATO media have succeeded in turning the claim in the general public that there is only one view dictated by the Kremlin into a – supposed – “general knowledge” among the general population. Information from Russia is therefore dismissed a priori as propaganda and as false. Anyone who understands and speaks Russian knows, of course, that this is not true. Nevertheless, information from Russia is generally considered to be implausible and can therefore hardly be used for research by Western journalists. So where to get additional information?

On January 30, Infosperber pointed out that Mark Episkopos, an employee of the (conservative) American political magazine “The National Interest”, took a closer look and pointed out that Navalny is not in every respect the opponent who should be supported by the West, because in recent years he has also supported political groups that do not represent Western values. Especially because Mark Episkopos is not a friend of Russia, his observations are noteworthy.

A few more examples

A very interesting and informative analysis has been published by the magazine “Jacobin”: “How a Russian Nationalist Named Alexei Navalny Became a Liberal Hero”, written by the Russian opposition figure Alexey Sakhnin. In it, the politically left-wing activist draws attention to the fact that Navalny does not represent the interests of the vast majority of the Russian population, but simply fights for the interests of another “elite”.

So if you want to know more about Navalny and his program, look further and find via the website “Natylie’s Place: Understanding Russia” a one-hour home office conversation of an American journalist with this same Alexey Sakhnin in Moscow and additionally with a Russian living in New York, Katya Kazbek, a journalist who in turn runs an interesting website. And again you get new, interesting information about Navalny and the question of what his program is and what interests he actually represents.

On another platform, Katya Kazbek literally says:

“It is worth pointing out that the attitude of the vast majority of Russians to the poison attack and its consequences is very different from its portrayal in the Western press, as recent polls show: While Navalny remains opaque to many people and many remain neutral, people are generally more cautious and suspicious of him than they are cautious and suspicious of the Russian government or even Putin personally. Navalny’s popularity has grown somewhat in the course of the alleged poison attack. But it is still behind Putin’s and even that of Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the far-right LDPR.”

Katya Kazbek elsewhere:

“At that time Navalny openly identified himself as a nationalist and took part in nationalist rallies. He started in the liberal, market-oriented Jabloko party, but was kicked out because of his nationalist views. Then he founded his “The People” movement, which was directed against illegal immigration, and he recorded blatantly xenophobic videos comparing people from the South Caucasus to tooth holes and migrants with cockroaches: one of these videos can still be seen on his verified YouTube channel.”

Or elsewhere:

“Basically, he adapts his policy to what seems opportune, but even that does not seem to help his cause enough. He is not Nazi enough for the ultra-right, he is too right-wing for the left, he scares off some liberals with his pro-weapons stance and with his uncertain position on Crimea, both of which are important issues for the liberals. He seems to have full support only among those who want to get away from Putin’s government by all means and do not really care about his views and his policies.”

If you are particularly interested in us-Russian relations, you will find new reports, comments and videos from various US media on this very topic on the platform usrussiaaccord.com every day, which are usually accessible without a paid subscription.

An Israeli film producer has seen something else

If the investigative journalist is looking for information about a particular geopolitical situation or about a particular person, it is often worthwhile to tap Israeli sources in order to get other perspectives. For example, on Haaretz, one actually finds a contribution by a filmmaker who wanted to make an updated portrait of Navalny. A few short sentences from it on Navalny’s personality:

“Despite these images showing the human side of Navalny, the impression remains of a somewhat teflon-like character, a man who does not miss an opportunity for a selfie with his followers and admirers, but prefers to be busy with his phone when they shout at him their pain and their hopes. [ ] This impression probably comes from the fact that he did not allow the film crew to break through the outer layer of the campaign and see him in intimate situations – with his family, friends or in personal moments of reflection. The documentary leaves viewers wondering whether Navalny’s communication problem does not reflect a deeper, personal problem.”

There is also German-language additional information

Also in German there is additional information about Navalny if you are looking for it. On the website Anti-Spiegel, for example, the German Thomas Röper, who has lived in Russia for a long time, fights above all against the completely one-sided depictions of the news magazine “Der Spiegel”, but often Röper does just by reporting on what it really was like or how it is. And then you can also learn about Navalny things that you can hardly read in the German-language media. For example, how Navalny defended himself in court after being sued for defamation by a 94-year-old veteran. Navalny had described him in a video as a “traitor” and an “ass crawler.” An article that is also worth reading.

Also worth reading are the daily analyses of the German platform " German-Foreign-Policy", on Navalny and the opposition in Russia, for example here.

And information from Russia?

And if, despite all doubts, one also looks at what Russian media say about Navalny, then besides his money-shifting and his calls for demonstrations, despite Corona-related bans on assembly, there are at least two points that are hardly mentioned otherwise. Among them is the information that Navalny received tons of money in the form of bitcoins, which makes it impossible to find out where the money came from. Why is Navalny cheered in the Western media without being asked where he got his money from? In the US, for example, payments to a party must be made transparent.

And finally, another point that could only be encountered on Russian platforms: the best-known British medical journal “The Lancet” was given the opportunity to see the results of the blood tests after Navalny’s arrival at the Berlin clinic “Charité”. And what do you see there? The doctors of the “Charité” found nothing that necessarily pointed to poisoning. It was, two weeks later, only the NATO laboratory of the German Bundeswehr that discovered the toxin Novichok. Anyone who has already dealt a little with the methods of the secret services, the secret services are capable of anything to satisfy the ideology. At least then this one question arises: If one trusts the Russian secret service to poison Navalny, is it absurd to think it is also possible for a Western secret service to find Novichok where it can hit its intimate enemy particularly hard with this “find”? Novichok was developed in Soviet times as a poison for mass murder, but is not suitable for the murder of an individual at all. But this poison has the “advantage” that it is only associated with Russia in terms of image, and that poisoning with Novichok automatically suggests Russian poisoners. The Bundeswehr laboratory only had to visit its own laboratories in order to satisfy the ideogy accordingly.

Who is Navalny? What is his program? Who supports him?

There is no short “true” answer to these questions. But there is a quintessence of the above-quoted and other information on Navalny from various sources: Navalny is not the representative of “the” opposition, because “the” Russian opposition does not exist. Navalny is about gaining power himself. To achieve this, he accepts support from all sides, public and secret, from the left and from the right. What he would really do if he himself gained power is completely open and the West does not care. Maybe it would be a Boris Yeltsin guy? Why do you think he was popular in the West? He watched as the West robbed mother Russia. Most editors also don’t try to learn a little more about this man. It is enough for them that Navalny acts against Putin and is therefore to be supported or even revered from a Western point of view.

Do we want to excuse the lubricating finches?

What is to be credited to journalists, to editors, is that since advertising on the Internet has dramatically reduced the proceeds of advertising in the traditional media, many editorial offices have been merged and all are being thinned out in terms of personnel. Journalists have little time left for in-depth research. Only journalists who are already retired and who take the time to do so voluntarily can afford this.