Alexei Navalny, a Russian anti-corruption blogger and opposition politician, quoted Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn in the “last word” he delivered this month at his Moscow trial over alleged fraud, using the genre of political speech pioneered by former oil oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky several years ago, The Economist said.
Navalny has been under house arrest since February, and faces a possible 10-year prison term. The prosecutors allege that he and his brother Oleg defrauded the French cosmetics firm Yves Rocher, although even the company’s employees say no crime took place. Mr Navalny’s real offense, it is widely understood, is to challenge the rule of Vladimir Putin and to have exposed the staggering corruption permeating the Russian state and state-owned companies, the column said.
The “last word” has become one of the most popular genres of political speech in Russia in recent years. Khodorkovsky pioneered the genre at the end of his trial in 2010 with an eloquent dissection of Russia’s political predicament. Jailed in 2003, Khodorkovsky had become Russia’s most famous political prisoner by the time he was finally released last year. Now the honor of addressing the country from the defendant’s box has passed to Navalny, the report said.
Judging by its over-reaction, the Kremlin appears to be just as worried about the impact of dissidents’ screeds as it was 40 years ago. The function once served by the underground samizdat press, publisher of Solzhenitsyn, is now played by social networks, in particular Facebook, which unlike its Russian imitators is not ultimately subject to the government, The Economist said.
A Facebook page inviting citizens to join a pro-Navalny rally on January 15th, the day his verdict is scheduled to be issued, quickly gathered more than 12, 000 acceptances. Russian prosecutors and the government internet watchdog demanded Facebook take the page down, and on December 20th it complied, said the report.
Within hours, however, a new Facebook page advertising the rally had attracted almost double the number of acceptances, The Economist said.
Meanwhile, pro-Kremlin activists are distributing condoms on the streets of Moscow with images of Navalny, Khodorkovsky and other opposition leaders whom they blame for the collapse of the Russian currency, AP said.
The LifeNews TV channel late Thursday showed activists handing out the condoms, quoting one activist as saying that the opposition leaders have been fueling the panic about the collapsing ruble, which lost half of its value this year, AP said.
Navalny has been the focus of Kremlin-instigated smear campaigns before, according to the report.