This episode reaches its unsurprising denouement:
- Small first protest
- Even smaller second protest
- Navalny gets jailed
This creates a lot of false hopes and disillusionment.
More interesting development is the following FSB recording, leaked to RT on the eve of the trial, apparently showing the exiled head of Navalny’s “Anti-Corruption Fund” beseeching $10-20 million from MI6 agent James Ford in a Moscow restaurant back in 2012.
He then suggests that MI6 could help him out with dirt on prominent Russians (translation h/t Paul Robinson):
In some cases we don’t have maybe the direct evidence, our evidence is circumstantial, but I’m sure that SFO has access to a lot of information that would not be available to us right from British sources. And if, you know, I’m sure there is information within the British agencies which would like Abramovich or Usmanov, people in the Russian government. Britain is a key European country that can influence and is already taking a tougher stance towards Russia.
Assuming that is legit, it’s quite damning. Imagine the degree of Russiagate hysteria the Blue Checks would have been driven to if the manager of Trump’s campaign was filmed begging for money and dirt on Hillary Clinton. It would have literally been Russiagate as a reality, not as conspiracy theory.
But aside from the not unusual double standards angle, it is also interesting in that it shows that the kremlins seem to have “kompromat” against Navalny. Perhaps there are bigger revelations kept in reserve should he ever become a real threat. It’s quite interesting that this was released now, and not even back in 2013, when Navalny won 27% in the Moscow mayoral elections. Possibly it means that the kremlins are serious with going ahead with a treason trial against Navalny, in addition to the 2.5 years of his suspended sentence for fraud that he will now have to serve out (3.5 years in total, but the year he spent under home arrest will be deducted). A treason sentence, which can potentially be as long as a decade, will keep Navalny out out of politics until after the 2030 elections.
I don’t think this video will mean much. The “vatnik” majority is already convinced that Navalny is a traitor. The Navalnyites don’t care, will consider this a fake, or actually a good thing if true.
Since the imprisonment does not come as a surprise, so I don’t expect a much higher turnout in the third protest. My guess is that it will be bigger than the second one, but no bigger than and possibly smaller than the first one.
I do wonder whether or not Navalny and his people expected this damp squib. I expected it and predicted it because I know that Putin’s approval rating is around 65%, that Navalny has a high anti-rating, and that Russians treat elite corruption as an inescapable reality. However, in the past month, I met some people, even sociologists, who believe that Putin’s ratings are fictive and that the sociological services making them up (e.g. see this Russian language interview from a couple of months ago with Sergey Zadumov). If this is a widespread view among Russian liberals (wishful thinking > logical thinking), then this might help explain why Navalny felt bold enough to come back. Perhaps he expected 250,000 on the streets in Moscow, not the 25,000 he actually got.