The suppression attempts represent a change of tactics for the authorities who once tried to weaken Navalny’s influence by erasing him.
Kremlin-controlled TV channels used to largely ignore protests called by Navalny. Russian President Vladimir Putin has never mentioned his most prominent critic by name. State news agencies referred to the politician and anti-corruption investigator as “a blogger” in the rare stories they ran mentioning him.
“Navalny went from a person whose name is not allowed to be mentioned to the main subject of discussion” on state TV, Maria Pevchikh, head of investigations at Navalny’s Foundations for Fighting Corruption, said in a YouTube video Friday.
Pevchikh credited Navalny’s latest exposé for the sudden surge in attention. His foundation’s two-hour-long video alleging that a lavish palace on the Black Sea was built for Putin through elaborate corruption has been watched over 111 million times on YouTube since it was posted on Jan. 19.
The video went up two days after Navalny was arrested upon returning to Russia from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. The Russian government denies involvement and has said it has no evidence that Navalny was poisoned.
While the high-profile arrest and the subsequent exposé were a double blow to authorities, political analyst and former Kremlin speech writer Abbas Gallyamov says that keeping Navalny and his activity off the airwaves to deprive him of additional publicity no longer makes sense.
“The fact that this strategy has changed suggests that the pro-government television audience is somehow receiving information about Navalny’s activities through other channels, recognizes him, is interested in his work, and in this sense, keeping the silence doesn’t make any sense,” Gallyamov said.
The weekend protests in scores of cities last month over Navalny’s detention represented the largest outpouring of popular discontent in years and appeared to have rattled the Kremlin.
Police reportedly arrested about 10,000 people, and many demonstrators were beaten, while state media sought to downplay the scale of the protests. Read from source….