On the 27th of June, Russia launched 2 missile strikes on Kramatorsk, which hit a restaurant in the city center. As a result, 60 people, including an 8-month-old baby, were injured, and 10 killed, including a 17-year-old girl. Demolition of debris is still ongoing as you read this email.
On the same day, the installation of Navalny’s prison cell was opened in Place Luxembourg in front of the European Parliament in Brussels.
On behalf of the Ukrainian civil society in Brussels and 60,000 Ukrainian refugees in Belgium, we would like to call on you why we believe this installation in itself is unethical, inappropriate and potentially dangerous for the European Union democratic society.
- While Alexei Navalny is known for his fight against Putin’s regime and corruption in Russia, we have noticed he is still propagating the same values of imperialistic and colonial Russia towards different repressed minorities and their human rights. When Russia attacked Georgia in 2008, Navalny supported the invasion and wrote in his blog that he would “really like to hit Georgian General Staff with a cruise missile.” He called Georgian people by slur “rodents” and called to deport them from Russia.
- Later Navalny complained about the UN security council meeting in Georgia. He did not like the Costa Rica ambassador’s remarks. “When we’re done bombing Georgia – Navalny wrote – we should deal with Costa Rica,” suggesting bombing the country too.
- In an interview with Xenia Sobchak in 2017, Navalny repeated his words about attacking Georgia and hitting it with cruise missiles. In 2021, on Navalny’s website, Georgian territories by Russia as well as illegally occupied Crimea, were marked as separate states.
- In 2014, he stated that “Crimea will remain a part of Russia and never in the foreseeable future will be a part of Ukraine.” In the same interview, Navalny added that Crimea was annexed with violations, but when asked whether he would return it, responded: “Is it a sandwich to give it back and forth?”. Although Navalny himself has now stated that the borders of 1991 should be respected, we are not convinced he and his surroundings have fully denounced Russian imperialistic aspirations. We invite the European Parliament to start discussions with both Ukrainian civil society and Russian liberal opposition on this specific issue.
- Over time, Navalny has repeatedly made statements that do not differ substantially from Kremlin’s talking points about Ukraine. For example, he claimed that Ukrainians and Russians were the same nation, but naturally, Russia should dominate.
- When in 2018 the Ukrainian Orthodox church was finally granted autonomy by Patriarchate of Constantinople (a historic step towards religious independence from Moscow), Navalny complained that it would be a disaster for “Russkiy Mir”, a colonial concept of Russian culture’s superiority. Navalny doesn’t see “Russkiy Mir” as anything bad. On the contrary, he criticized Putin for ruining it. He has never blamed Putin for trying to subjugate other nations and erase their cultural identity. However, Navalny did criticize him for undermining Russia’s authority and influence1.
- While Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation investigated corruption schemes in the defense ministry of Russia, it forgot to mention that the direct consequence of fighting corruption is the increasing production of weapons that will be used in Russia’s war against Ukraine.
Therefore, opening such an installation in front of the European Parliament is, from our point of view, an inappropriate decision because of the following reasons:
- Giving the same platform for dialogue and attention to Russians and Ukrainians is inherently wrong and diminishes the line between the aggressor and victim countries. We believe the EU leaders should advocate for bringing justice and should be cautious of being used by Russian propagandists to whitewash the Russian reputation
- We have to free, de-occupy, and rebuild Ukraine before investing political effort into Russia and its reforms. The initiatives like this installation shift focus from urgent priorities, such as arming Ukraine and stopping the genocide of Ukrainians. This said, it is unclear what the goal of the installation is. Only with a strong, sovereign, and rebuilt Ukraine, there is a future for a democratic Russia.
- Russian liberals of today and Navalny in particular might be against Russia’s war against Ukraine. Yet, they represent and spread the same Russian imperialistic views which resulted in the war. It is therefore incorrect and inappropriate to make Navalny look as an “alternative” political figure that will promote peace as opposed to the war. There is reason to believe that under his theoretical rule, Russia would not start another war. If the EU wishes for a democratic future for Russia, it is crucial to talk to the suppressed nations that are part of the Russian Federation and listen to the countries that experienced Russian military interventions and aggression (Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova)
- Showcasing Russians as victims of the war is unethical regarding the Ukrainian population that suffered losses since 2014. Ukrainian civil society stresses a collective responsibility of the Russian population, which enabled Putin’s power for many years, did not react to the Russian military aggression in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and annexation of Crimea in 2014, which in turn did not prevent the full-scale invasion in 2022.
- Such installation in front of the Ukrainian Civil Society Hub (in Station Europe) triggers trauma response among Ukrainians who reside in Brussels and Belgium, who had to flee the war, escape the occupation, and death. A Russian prison cell was installed in Place Luxembourg, in the same place where we held demonstrations raising awareness to commemorate more than 500 kids killed by Russia since 24 February 2022, where we installed an exhibition of the Yellow Ribbon movement in occupied territories where such prison cells are not used to host only one person, but dozens that are tortured, raped and killed.
- Last but not least, Ukraine is celebrating it’s Constitution Day on 28 June which is a big national holiday and during which Ukrainians gathered in the Ukrainian Civil Society Hub to celebrate as well as to commemorate those who gave their lives for Ukraine in the face of imperialist aggressor. Therefore, the timing for this installation right in front of the Hub could not have been more inappropriate.
As a Ukrainian civil society in Brussels, we observe an increasing activity of the so-called ‘Russian opposition’, in the EU. We understand that the democratic European society above all values the freedom of speech and plurality of thoughts exactly due to its democratic nature. However, it is important to remember that the EU is involved in the war that Russia launched not only against Ukraine but against the whole democratic world. Therefore, in a state of war, the EU has to be especially cautious of the hybrid attacks of the enemy, such as interventions of Russia in internal political matters, spreading propaganda and disinformation, manipulating public opinion. The enemy does everything to parasite on our democratic values and dismantle the democratic world from inside.
European Parliament and other representatives of the EU institutions should stand firm and adhere to the values the European Union was created to protect and not be misled by Russian Empire narratives under the cover of the democratic and pro-European Russian leader. Furthermore, we believe that, before Russia is decentralized, demilitarized, and denazifized, it will launch more wars on the European continent.
We believe that the best way the EU can support the democratic future of Russia is by talking and supporting the efforts of the suppressed nations, such as Ichkerians, Bashkir, Buryat, Ingush, Kalmyk, Erzya, Adyghe and others. Many indigenous peoples of Russia share anti-imperialist views and recognize the right of peoples to self-determination, as well as support the victory of Ukraine and the complete defeat of imperialistic Russia.
Given the above-mentioned points, we ask the European Parliament to express a strong position regarding the presence of so-called ‘Russian liberals’ and not support the spread of Russian imperialistic narratives in the heart of the European Union.
With kind regards,