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8 Feb, 2021 13:17

Russia’s most prominent liberal party split over Navalny as Yabloko founder Yavlinsky takes aim at imprisoned opposition figure

Russia’s most prominent liberal party split over Navalny as Yabloko founder Yavlinsky takes aim at imprisoned opposition figure

Grigory Yavlinsky, the founder of Russia's largest liberal political party, turned his fire on anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny over the weekend, as the country's fractured opposition resumed its customary infighting.

The former Yabloko head labeled the Moscow protest leader merely an "auditor" of Russia's elite, whose investigations have no "practical results for society."

Yavlinsky's statement came after January saw two days of protest in support of Navalny, who he accused of aiming to "foment primitive social discord."

The party veteran's comments have caused disagreement within the group he founded in 1993, and for which he was presidential candidate three times. Much of Yabloko's core electorate is young and Western-facing, similar to those who support Navalny – causing a dilemma for Yavlinsky, who has described the activist as both populist and nationalist.

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"Democratic Russia, respect for the individual, freedom, life without fear and without repression are incompatible with Navalny's policies," he wrote in an article named 'Without Putinism and Populism' on Saturday.

Navalny was previously a member of Yabloko, joining in 2000. Despite being part of a left-wing party, he combined his liberal views with becoming a fixture of Moscow's far-right scene, eventually becoming a regular at 'Russian March’, an ultranationalist gathering. He was ultimately kicked out of the faction for racist comments.

"The wave that is rising now is not just against Putin. It is rising for the undemocratic future of Russia," Yavlinsky continued. "It is rising for the past communism or for the future fascism. And Navalny is one of the potential leaders of this new destruction."

In his opinion, Navalny's investigations have no practical results other than fomenting social discord. He accused the activist of using minors for political purposes, attracting them to unsanctioned rallies. The Yabloko boss also criticized protests held by Navalny's allies on January 23 and January 31, attacking the marchers for being too focused on the activist.

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"No organized demand was put forward to release political prisoners… nor demands to stop the war in Ukraine," he wrote. Both Yavlinsky and Navalny have roots in Ukraine. While the Yabloko veteran was born in the eastern city of Lvov, Navalny spent many childhood summers there with his Ukrainian grandmother in a small village near Chernobyl.

Yavlinsky’s article has caused much consternation within his party. On Sunday, the youth branch in Saint Petersburg condemned the veteran's words, calling for the anti-Putin factions to be "united" with an "unambiguous spirit of cooperation."

"Despite our respect for Grigory Alexeyevich [Yavlinsky], we strongly disapprove of the attack on Alexey Navalny," a post on social media read. "There is yet another wave of repression sweeping through Russian politics… The opposition needs to be united."

According to the statement, Yavlinsky's article has already caused some politicians to refuse to run for parliament under the banner of Yabloko. In particular, former Mayor of Yekaterinburg Evgeny Roizman announced that allying with the party for the upcoming Duma election is now "impossible."

"We are not saying that Alexey Navalny is always right. But it seems obvious to us that you don't have to support the man's ideas at all in order to express solidarity with him when he is put in jail for nothing after a failed assassination attempt," the youth wing's post said.

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