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Politics

The Day After. How a conference with the Russian opposition is going on in Brussels

05.06.2023

A two-day conference, The Day After, is taking place in Brussels at the European Parliament on 5 and 6 June.

The event was organised by former Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius and attended by representatives of the Russian opposition.

Among the speakers at the conference are renowned French journalist and MEP Bernard Guetta, Russian opposition politicians Garry Kasparov, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Leonid Gozman, Gennady Gudkov, Ivan Tyutrin and Dmitry Gudkov. Journalist and media manager Evgeny Kiselev, journalist Konstantin Eggert, economist Sergei Aleksashenko, environmental activist Evgeniya Chirikova, journalist Zhanna Nemtsova, wife of political prisoner Vladimir Kara-Murza, Ukrainian military analyst Alexei Arestovich and many others are also scheduled to speak.

The main theme of the conference was to discuss Russia's transition to democracy after the end of Vladimir Putin's rule.

Day 1

At the beginning of the event, Dmitry Muratov, editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, spoke to the participants in a video from Moscow, stating that Russia had closed its path to Europe for generations to come. Muratov also emphasised that Russians have no influence over the authorities: there have been no referendums, social networks are closed and journalism is banned.

Next came a speech by human rights activist Sergei Davidis, head of the organisation "Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial". His speech focused on the repressions inside Russia: Davidis is convinced that due to the insufficient response to them by domestic and foreign institutions, the regime managed to strengthen and unleash already external aggression in Ukraine.


Sergei Davidis
Photo: rufabula.com

"Today it is important to reach an understanding that after Ukraine's victory, it is necessary not only to punish war criminals, but also to release political prisoners.

Today's meeting is an important step to build a dialogue with Russian civil society. Solidarity is the pivot around which civil society can be built," Sergey said.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was rebuked by Russian and Ukrainian activists not so long ago for not supporting the "disintegration of Russia", said at the meeting:

"The war is illegitimate, Ukraine must be recognised within the 1991 borders. Ukraine must win, it must be compensated, and we must support those who oppose this war.

This regime must be destroyed, there is no other way to a normal future.

Khodorkovsky's associate Garry Kasparov of the Russian Anti-War Committee, who spoke by video link, commented on the Ukrainian counter-offensive:

"As in the 1940s, only the total defeat of the fascist regime can open the way for democratic change."

Journalist Sergei Parkhomenko called on politicians to put pressure on IT companies so that "a country with a mad dictator at its head does not gain total control of the Internet" by blocking it for its citizens and thus depriving independent media of their last platforms.


Sergei Parkhomenko
Photo: Timur Abasov

It is necessary, according to Parkhomenko, to make it clear to Russian officials that systems critical to the state will be destroyed when the Internet is attacked and the remaining social networks are blocked.

Former Duma deputy Dmitry Gudkov called for integrating Russia into the EU as much as possible after the collapse of Putin's regime to "cure its imperial syndrome" and not repeat the mistake Europe made with Germany in the 1920s:

"Russia will pose a threat to Europe until it becomes part of Europe."

Gudkov also stated: "We [Russians] must form the idea that the main enemy [of Europe] is not the Russians, but the war criminal, Putin.

The politician did not specify what thought should be formed about those Russians who became war criminals in Ukraine.

Human rights activist Lev Ponomarev suggested engaging Netflix to democratize Russians:

"60% [of Russians] are philistines who live their lives. They will never go to a rally, and they might not even tell a joke. And the hardest thing is getting through to these people. It is almost impossible to do that.

It is necessary to create an information machine that would broadcast to these people. The program should be designed for the average person. There has to be a series, for example, to negotiate with Netflix, which left Russia. The series is very popular with people. And in between series, talk about democracy, about poverty, about what benefits people get in the West. This is the only way we can go."

Public figure Leonid Gozman made a speech about sympathy for Russians who did not participate in the political life of the country.

"If we speak by referring to our compatriots by calling them 'vatniks' (rednecks), we will never be heard. We must show sympathy, try to help them. Otherwise we are seen as people who don't care about their country.

How can you live in a country without cooperating with the state? Naturally, there are gradations, different responsibilities. But if we say that everyone is guilty, we are saying that no one is guilty. We should look for more friends, and say that we are ready to cooperate with Putin's elites - with those who have not sullied themselves in this monstrous war."


Yevgeny Kiselev
Photo: Yuri Timofeyev (RFE/RL)

Journalist Yevgeny Kiselev, on behalf of several Ukrainians with whom he spoke before the meeting, offered to support members of the Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC).

According to Kiselev, several people immediately before the event asked him to tell the Russian anti-Putin activists to support the "reckless guys" who help the AFU and "make these brave forays into the territory of the Belgorod region."

Day 2

The second day of the conference began with a speech by Boris Akunin. In his speech he pointed out three possible ways of developing Russia:

  1. Turning the country into a federation or confederation with democratisation of the individual parts;
  2. Confederation of Russia through civil war;
  3. Joining China as a vassal country within the framework of a new Cold War between Washington and Beijing.

The writer considers the latter path to be the most likely, since Russia as an empire has discredited itself through the mediocrity of its own leadership.

Lawyer and social activist Mark Feigin suggested discussing the drafting of a new Russian constitution. He suggested that such a constitution could be proclaimed in the coming months in Belgorod if Russia loses control of it.


Mark Feigin
Photo: Matycin Valery/TASS

At the same time, Feigin called Putin a representative of the "pro-Chinese party".

Speaking again was Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who, in keeping with tradition, again called for no mention of the collapse of the Russian Federation:

"When we talk about the disintegration of Russia, we are opposing millions of people who support Putin and the continuation of the war because of the fear of this disintegration."

Also, according to Khodorkovsky, Western politicians are limiting aid to Ukraine because they fear the emergence of 5-7 nuclear-armed states with border conflicts on Russian territory.

Economist Sergei Aleksashenko stated that after World War II Germany and Japan became the closest allies of the United States due to their assistance and inclusion in their economic and military orbit.

In the 1990s, Russia did not receive such support: the world markets were not open to it, it was not invited to join NATO, and so on.


Sergei Aleksashenko
Photo: gmk.center

In Aleksashenko's view, by the time Putin leaves office a new Marshall Plan for Russia should be ready. In exchange for reforms, the country should receive inclusion in global political and economic processes, so as not to repeat its slide into dictatorship.

Aleksashenko named regular elections with renewal of regional elites (following the example of post-war Japan and Germany), the development of a new constitution, the repeal of repressive laws, the creation of a real federation, and so on as the key reforms.

The opposition, says the economist, has to come to terms with the new elections so as not to lose votes in them.

Eco-activist Vladimir Slivyak emphasized in his speech that one of the key issues in Russia will be climate policy. In his opinion it is not possible to care about the climate and the environment in a dictatorship.

Political scientist Ekaterina Shulman spoke about the planned vote in the European Parliament to create an ombudsman for the rights of Russians inside and outside Russia.

"The people who left Russia so en masse did not do so of their own free will. According to rough estimates, between 600,000 and 1,200,000,000 have left Russia - more than the 2017-2022 immigration wave and more than the post-Soviet wave of 1989-2002."

Schulman noted that people fleeing abroad under stress find it difficult to self-organize and help each other. According to the political scientist, a separate person in the European Parliament will be in charge of human rights protection of the Russians.

Alexandra Garmazhapova, co-founder of the Free Buryatia Foundation, spoke about the problems of chauvinism, imperialism, and colonialism in Russian rhetoric:

"We talk a lot about 'imperialism' here, but, for example, Mark Feigin on the last panel kept talking specifically about 'Russian emigration,' 'Russian' society. And I don't understand: are they talking about us, or not. We insist that we should use the word "Russian."

Many speakers also spoke of Asia in a negative sense, but South Korea and Japan are also Asia, Russia could learn from them."

"The attitude of looking down on Ukraine is also something that has been going on in Russia for years. We need to take responsibility for our mistakes.

For some reason Russia won the Great Patriotic War, while the Soviet Union introduced tanks into Czechoslovakia.

We must stop looking down on the regions. People don't know anything about each other at all: Putin's xenophobic policy is very successful. When people ask me if I need a visa to Dagestan, I understand that we have to work with the population and tell them that the country is big, different and interesting."

Former FSB colonel Gennady Gudkov pointed out that the conference of the Russian opposition with the European Parliament is not attended by the EU leadership.

In the politician's opinion, it is caused by European politicians' fears of future negotiations with Putin, which an open dialogue with the Russian opposition could allegedly hinder.

Gudkov urged the European Parliament not to be afraid to include the Russian opposition in the discussion of practical issues related to Russia: the fate of emigrants and future relations between the EU and Russia.

According to Gudkov, Putin's regime must be dismantled in any case, because otherwise a lasting peace is unattainable and the threat of nuclear war is growing.

Lawyer Karinna Moskalenko addressed the issue of gender imbalance at the conference:

"There were several panels here consisting exclusively of men. And I want to ask: are you comfortable in your jackets? For Russian politicians, women are still somewhere between internet cats and family problems".

Kirill Martynov, editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta Europe, opened another panel at the conference with a reminder that "Putin is not the only problem in Russia."


Kirill Martynov
Photo: Jānis Škapars/TVNET

According to the moderator of the discussion, in addition to Putin and war, we should not forget about ecology, the need for gender inequality, and the growing possibilities of artificial intelligence.

Grigory Frolov of the Free Russia foundation suggested "de-colonizing" Moscow:

"Speaking of decolonialism, we must remember the inverse relationship: not only should the regions have more money and powers, but Moscow should also have less money and powers. Moscow should become a city that no one wants to move to."

It is not specified, whether proposals to burn the capital to act for sure.

Frolov goes on to talk about gender equality, and suggests that Russia should learn from Ukraine's experience of public address by the authorities to "citizens and female citizens."

Leonid Gozman went on to voice his idea that Russians, even those who are misguided for one reason or another, should be treated with sympathy:

"Every time you let it be said about your compatriots that they are slaves, you are assisting Putin. There is no need to do that."

At the conclusion of the conference, its co-organiser, MEP Andrius Kubilius, acknowledged that Leonid Volkov and Maria Pevchikh, as representatives of Alexei Navalny, had not accepted the invitation sent to them.

Earlier, FBK representatives had refused to participate in the unification forum organised by Mikhail Khodorkovsky in Berlin.

At the end of the conference, it was announced that a permanent group of the European Parliament would be set up to coordinate with the Russian opposition.

Photo report from SOTA

Sources: SOTA, kasparov.ru, forumfreerussia

Cover Photo: forumfreerussia

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