Bill Keating: our resentment over Navalny’s verdict will translate into concrete actions

Press Sec. Jen Psaki on Russian court sentence for Alexei Navalny

The head of the subcommittee of the House of Representatives of the US Congress on his reaction to the decision of Moscow to punish the oppositionist with a real prison term

In the United States, politicians and public figures continue to respond to a court ruling in Moscow that replaced opposition politician Alexei Navalny with a real sentence on February 2..

The founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation returned to Russia in January this year after being treated in Germany for poisoning with a chemical warfare agent from the Novichok family. News of Navalny’s verdict took people to the streets in many cities of Russia to protest against the indicatively repressive decision, and these people were also beaten and detained..

In an interview with the Voice of America Russian Service, a Democrat Congressman from Massachusetts Bill Keating (Bill Keating), head of the subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, energy and the environment of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, says that the persecution of Alexei Navalny and people who came out to support him will not lead to a curtailment of protests in Russia and will elicit a response in democracies.

Danila Galperovich: What was your first reaction to the verdict of Alexei Navalny?

Bill Keating: Obviously it did not come as a complete surprise, and it is clear that this is a bogus judgment based on another bogus. The case, in connection with which, according to his prosecutors, Navalny violated the provisions of his suspended sentence, was unequivocally called by the European Court of Human Rights unjustified. So they built one false solution on top of another, and that’s what I expected. My reaction was the same as I felt in many other similar cases in history: what Navalny did can be described as a kind of historical action of a very brave man. And attempts to limit his freedom cannot suppress the desire of millions of people to be free. The authorities can imprison this person, but they cannot imprison the very idea whose time has come. When you see the size of these protests – the largest unauthorized protests in Russia in years – it becomes clear that the “we will stop this protest by putting Navalny in jail” approach will never work..

D.G .: The Kremlin probably knew that a real prison term for Navalny would cause very loud indignation all over the world, that relations with the West would be seriously damaged, and it took this step anyway. Why do you think?

B.K .: I think it was a step of despair for the Kremlin, a mistake. The number of protesters is very large, they understand very well what happened, and they are extremely unhappy with the actions of the authorities, because the authorities do not respond to their demands. The discontent is not only about the corruption of these authorities, which has manifested itself in the past, but also about how they deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has only highlighted economic and human rights problems. The weakness of the management structure that had been built was completely exposed. And I have hope, with all the fragility of the grounds for such a hope that now events will turn in the direction that would be desirable for the Russians, that their demands will still be heard. Detentions and arrests of journalists who write about these protests, the detention of Navalny’s own wife, the arrests of some of the people taking to the streets on false charges – all this does not work..

D.G .: How much the events with Navalny in Russia affect what happens in other countries?

Bill Keating: our resentment over Navalny's verdict will translate into concrete actions

B.K .: People around the world who are peering into these events understand that if we miss this and do not react, then in the same way we will miss and not react to such events in our home. Anyone who maintains faith in freedom, justice and civil rights should speak out loudly on this topic. And if this is not done, then the same situation can develop anywhere – when basic and very important human rights can be violated..

D.G .: What can American legislators and the US government in general do in this situation? I am talking about something really effective, and not about the expression of “deep concern”, which, as it is obvious, does not pay much attention to in Moscow..

B.K .: If you look at the events, even in addition to this imprisonment of Navalny, in addition to the previous attempt to kill him, we see the use of a chemical substance, which is a violation of international acts on the control of the use of chemical and bacteriological weapons. This should be subject to possible sanctions, as well as violations covered by the Magnitsky Rule of Law and Accountability Act and the Global Human Rights Accountability Act. In all these areas, we have developed sanctions that have already been used, and their application will be considered in this case as well. Concrete action will follow in US and international outrage.

  • Danila Galperovich

    Reporter for the Russian Voice of America Service in Moscow. Collaborates with Voice of America since 2012. For a long time he worked as a correspondent and host of programs for the BBC Russian Service and Radio Liberty. Specialization – international relations, politics and legislation, human rights.

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