In Lithuania, Russian opposition debates survival

Coming from London, Moscow or already residing in Lithuania, Russian opponents met, Thursday, August 19, at the edge of a peaceful lake in the region of Trakai, west of Vilnius. Almost a ritual, actually. Since 2014, the small Baltic country has hosted the exercise called “Vilnius Russia Forum”, during which the confidentiality of the debates is required and the anonymity of the participants preserved – except for the most seasoned. “What am I risking at my age?” “, sighs, shrugging her shoulders, Evguenia Albats, 62, editor-in-chief in Russia of The New Times, an independent weekly targeted in 2018 by a record fine of 22 million rubles (254,000 euros).

“We don’t have so many platforms to meet and discuss”, approves Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Russian ex-oligarch now exiled in London after spending ten years in a penal colony from 2003 to 2013, before being pardoned. Corn “The situation is getting worse, continues the founder of the opposition movement Open Russia, all of whose websites are now blocked in Russia. Twenty years is a long time [depuis l’arrivée au pouvoir de Vladimir Poutine, en 2000], and we must educate a whole generation which has known only an authoritarian regime. “

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Repression against supporters of Alexei Navalny increases further in Russia

After the hugs of the reunion – the previous version of the forum had taken place by videoconference, the Covid-19 pandemic requires – the bitterness is indeed palpable, hardly thwarted by the voluntarism of their host. “President Putin is using the privilege of dictators to break the rules and test the limits of the world’s patience. In our turn, we must use the privilege of the democratic world to discuss freely ”, declared Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielus Landsbergis, opening the meeting with a dinner.

“We are not dissidents, not a small group”

“Putin is cleaning up the country”, objects a man. The assembly is an illustration of this, which brings together “strata” of exiled activists from the major demonstrations of winter 2011-2012, to those, more recent, organized in January and April in favor of the opponent Alexeï Navalny, imprisoned after an attempted poisoning just a year ago in Novichok, a potent nerve agent. Also present, a European diplomat expelled from Moscow in 2018, after the attempted elimination – also in Novichok – of a former Russian agent, Sergei Skripal, in the United Kingdom, a case which had given rise to the biggest waltz of diplomats between Russia and the West.

You have 58.23% of this article to read. The rest is for subscribers only.