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Kremlin Using Leftwing Commentators To Undermine Alexey Navalny

March 4th, 2021 16:01

The Free Rus­sia Foun­da­tion, a US-based think tank found­ed by a group of Russ­ian expa­tri­ates and dis­si­dents, is report­ing that the Krem­lin has launched a pro­pa­gan­da cam­paign to under­mine West­ern sol­i­dar­i­ty with Russ­ian oppo­si­tion fig­ure Alex­ey Naval­ny and uti­liz­ing Russ­ian and West­ern left-wing com­men­ta­tors. Accord­ing to the report authored by Ukrain­ian aca­d­e­m­ic Anton Shekhovtsov:

Feb­ru­ary 6, 2021 The cur­rent attacks against Russ­ian oppo­si­tion leader Alex­ey Naval­ny alleg­ing his nation­al­is­tic lean­ings bear all the tra­di­tion­al mark­ings of a reflex­ive con­trol oper­a­tion ini­ti­at­ed by the Krem­lin. Their goal is to under­mine the legit­i­ma­cy of Naval­ny in the eyes of the West and par­a­lyze action in his support. […]

Moscow’s 4D approach to erod­ing the Euro­pean sol­i­dar­i­ty on the Naval­ny case has been the fol­low­ing: dis­miss accu­sa­tions of poi­son­ing the lead­ing oppo­si­tion fig­ure, dis­tort the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing Navalny’s poi­son­ing by sug­gest­ing mul­ti­ple the­o­ries of his sick­ness, dis­tract Euro­pean atten­tion from Navalny’s attempt­ed assas­si­na­tion sanc­tioned by the Krem­lin, and dis­may Euro­pean politi­cians by expelling diplo­mats for sup­port­ing the jailed oppo­si­tion activist.

[…]

The “mechan­ics” of the “dis­tract” ele­ment con­sist of a reflex­ive con­trol oper­a­tion involv­ing three phas­es. First, the Krem­lin con­veys the nar­ra­tive (“Naval­ny is a nation­al­ist”) pri­vate­ly to its agents of influ­ence and pub­licly via state-con­trolled media (such as RT) set­ting up the agen­da. Sec­ond, Russ­ian “left­ists” repro­duce the sanc­tioned nar­ra­tive in West­ern nation­al and inter­na­tion­al left-wing media. Third, the nar­ra­tive “trav­els” to more mod­er­ate, cen­trist media space and becomes part of the main­stream dis­cus­sion, which is Moscow’s main goal of the “dis­tract” ele­ment. By “laun­der­ing” this reflex­ive con­trol oper­a­tion through Russ­ian “left­ists”, the Krem­lin par­tial­ly removes traces of its influ­ence in “Navalny’s nation­al­ism” debates among West­ern left-wing com­men­ta­tors and activists.

Read the full report here.

The report fur­ther iden­ti­fies Russ­ian left-wing activist Alex­ey Sakhnin as “one egre­gious spec­i­men” for this kind of pro­pa­gan­da cam­paign. Accord­ing to the report, Sakhnin is:

…a mem­ber of the Russ­ian organ­i­sa­tion “Left Front”. Intro­duced to West­ern left-wing audi­ences as an oppo­nent to Putin, Sakhnin has been con­tin­u­ous­ly involved in the Kremlin’s infor­ma­tion war against Ukraine since 2014, as well as in sev­er­al oper­a­tions aimed at smear­ing and dis­cred­it­ing Euro­pean experts and politi­cians crit­i­cal of Putin’s regime. While liv­ing “in exile” in Swe­den in 2012–2019, Sakhnin was busy pack­ing Sweden’s Left Par­ty and Green Par­ty with pro-Krem­lin nar­ra­tives pack­aged as gen­uine left-wing analy­sis of inter­na­tion­al relations.

Sakhnin reg­u­lar­ly pub­lish­es for US left-wing mag­a­zines such as Jacobin, and his arti­cles on Naval­ny car­ry titles such as “Russia’s Trump” or “How a Russ­ian Nation­al­ist Named Alex­ei Naval­ny Became a Lib­er­al Hero.”