In his fight against Putin, Alexei Navalny needs all the help he can get. The might of the Russian state is pitted against him. Having failed to kill Navalny, the Kremlin has achieved its aim, at least in the short term, of silencing him: by locking him up in prison.
Navalny and his supporters have called on the west to assist him. So far, the response has been fairly measly: this week, the EU announced sanctions against a handful of figures in the Russian regime.
This small scale retaliation for the attempted murder of a political opponent won’t bother Putin much. Now, though, Navalny’s attempt to take on Putin has been undermined once again by an organisation which should know better.
Amnesty International has announced that it will no longer refer to Navalny as ‘a prisoner of conscience’. The reason? Past comments the Russian opposition leader has made about immigrants which, the organisation says, effectively amounts to hate speech.
It didn’t take long for Amnesty – an organisation which professes to ‘take injustice personally’ – to change its mind. A month ago, when Navalny made the brave decision to return to Russia and face imprisonment, and possibly worse, Amnesty declared that Navalny was a ‘prisoner of conscience’. Describing Navlany as a ‘prominent Kremlin critic’, Amnesty said:
‘Navalny has been deprived of his liberty for his peaceful political activism and exercising free speech. Amnesty International …calls for his immediate and unconditional release’
Now, in the eyes of Amnesty, Navalny has been downgraded.
Putin, no doubt, will be delighted. The Kremlin has struggled to find ways to deal with a popular politician who has been brave enough to call out Russia’s leader for what he is: a man who will resort to any means to retain his grip on power.