Leonid Volkov, Chief of Staff and Campaign Manager to Alexei Navalny, Vilnius
Led by: Maithreyi Seetharaman, Founder, Facultas Media, London
The discussion started with Leonid Volkov, the Chief of Staff and Campaign Manager to Alexei Navalny, assuring the audience that Mr Navalny's health is in a stable condition health-wise and is in touch with his lawyers frequently. Although he has not seen the announcements from presidents Putin and Biden following their discussion at the Geneva summit, he will certainly comment on it on his social media accounts. Mr Volkov appreciated the president's Biden approach to take a stronger position with president Putin which was reflected in the remarks made by Putin after the meeting.
"Our policy recommendation is that we need to try something else rather than trying to push the non-existing reset button" - Leonid Volkov.
When asked about advice for the opposition movement in Belarus, Mr Volkov refrained as he recognised the different political situation and history to which he is not as attuned as the opposition movement is. Conversations between the two movements would not help the people in fighting their leaders. However, Mr Volkov commented on some of the similarities of approaches from the two leaders which implies they are in communication with each other and are learning from each other as well as other current and want-to-be dictators. This has resulted in a dramatic deterioration in the political situation of affected countries. One powerful tool of gaining influence internationally is the export of corruption which results in local politicians across countries acting as agents of the regime enticed by the prospect of receiving funds from Russia.
Although Putin's regime is trying to push the protest under the carpet by disenfranchising them from any political representation and shutting down their offline operations, there is no decrease in support for the opposition. On the contrary, the more is being done to silence the movement, the more increase in dissent there is.
"Anything could be the spark that would ignite the situation" - Leonid Volkov
The opposition movement embraced the use of social media to spread their message and grow the support which was favoured by the high internet penetration rate across generations. The citizens are aware that human rights have been taken away from them and that many tools of political engagement are no longer available. This results in wider support for Mr Navalny's campaign and is a good sign of a bright future for Russia.