Jailed Russian Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny has admonished the Russian elite for its venality, expressing hatred for those who squandered a historic opportunity to reform after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.
In an impassioned 2000-word essay in response to being handed a 19-year additional prison sentence that would mean the 47-year-old stays in jail until he is 74, Navalny said hatred sometimes overcame him.
He dissected Russia’s post-Soviet history including the legacies of the most powerful figures of the 1990s such as the so called reformers who sought to lay the foundations of capitalism and the oligarchs who won fabulous fortunes.
“I can’t stop myself from fiercely, wildly hating those who sold, p***ed away, and squandered the historical chance that our country had in the early nineties,” Navalny said in his most substantive statement since his sentencing last week.
After the Soviet collapse, Navalny said, the Russian elite had sold a European future down the river for the pointless trappings of corrupt despotism: the luxury villas, the oligarch opulence and what he called “the fake election” when Boris Yeltsin won a second presidential term in 1996.
Russia’s leaders, he said, had opted for United States dollar wealth rather than build any sort of democracy or study the lessons of the Soviet past.
He expressed “hatred” for those in power in the 1990s, singling out Yeltsin, economic reform architect Anatoly Chubais, and “the oligarchs and the entire Komsomol-party gang that called themselves ‘democrats”.
Yeltsin, who died in 2007, the most influential Russian leaders of the 1990s and some of the oligarchs have admitted many mistakes but said they were dealing with a chaotic situation that required radical and sometimes rushed decisions.
The corruption under Yeltsin, Navalny said, had sown the seeds of a crackdown under Yeltsin’s successor Vladimir Putin.
“If the rules of the game are such that you can steal, lie, falsify, censor, and all the courts are under our control, they thought: ‘well we are here and we’ll turn this around quite well’,” Navalny said.
A former lawyer, Navalny rose to prominence more than a decade ago by lampooning Putin’s elite and voicing allegations of corruption on a vast scale.
Navalny’s supporters cast him as a Russian version of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela who will one day be freed from jail to lead the country.
Russian authorities view him and his supporters as extremists with links to the US CIA intelligence agency intent on trying to destabilise Russia.
They have outlawed his movement, forcing many of his followers to flee abroad.
Navalny said he was reading a book by Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky entitled Fear No Evil.
Sharanksy was later exchanged by the Soviet Union and went to Israel.
“I know that Russia will have another chance,” Navalny said.
“This is a historical process.
“We will be at the crossroads again,” Navalny said, although he said he sometimes woke up in a cold sweat in prison worrying that it too would be squandered.
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