Can the Russian opposition promote regime change?

23:59 11 May Kyiv, Ukraine

The aggressor continues to fail on the fronts in Ukraine, while the conflicts between various private military companies and the regular Russian army become more acute and public. What is the emotional video of Prigozhin, which he recently addressed to Shoigu and Gerasimov, demanding supplies for my troops. Amid squabbling in the Kremlin, the Russian opposition is beginning to make plans for the post-war period.

Both before February 24, 2022, and after, the Russian opposition was, to put it mildly, powerless to oppose anything serious to Putin's power.. Peaceful protests, resonant investigations, a political program without a program itself. Yes, and constant squabbles among themselves. All this cannot be called a force that could resist the dictatorship..
Now representatives of the Russian opposition are discussing unification, but not in the sense of creating a single party ready to participate in the elections. Rather, opposition groups seek to develop a unified approach to what a post-Putin Russia would look like and how regime change could be triggered after his departure or death.
At the end of April 2023, a human rights conference named after the late Russian lawyer Yuri Schmidt was convened in Berlin with the participation of various representatives of the Russian political diaspora from different countries. As a result of the conference, a declaration of the Russian democratic forces was signed, proclaiming, in particular, the creation of a free, legal and federal Russia. Participants also noted the criminal nature of the Putin regime and its war, as well as the indisputable territorial integrity of Ukraine.

The organizer of the conference, Khodorkovsky, has repeatedly voiced the principles he prefers to unite the opposition. The oppositionist is convinced that even if some “revolutionary party” comes to power after Putin, its leadership will be authoritarian, regardless of party ideology. This is due to the fact that such a party in itself would have an authoritarian structure and would not change in the conditions of struggle and political turbulence. In addition, any Russian leader needs a well-defined external enemy to maintain centralized power.

In connection with this inevitable outcome, Khodorkovsky and his allies see the transformation of Russia into a parliamentary republic with a strong federal structure. This is the kind of transformation, they say, that the coalition of democratic forces should seek from Putin's possible successors.. Without such a transformation, participation in elections organized by the current Kremlin regime makes no sense. Thus, the participants of the Berlin Conference see the primary task of the Russian opposition in any transitional period not in the struggle for power, but in taking advantage of the split in the Russian elites and being ready for negotiations even with people “on the other side of the barricades”.
In addition, Khodorkovsky emphasized that after the start of a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, a peaceful transfer of power in Russia is impossible, and therefore the only real means of influencing the situation is force or the threat of force. One of the main sources of this, according to the former political prisoner, is the Russian regions, which, in his opinion, should become the basis for a new, truly federal government.. Speaking about the role of the regions in post-Putin Russia, Khodorkovsky acknowledged that 15, 20 or even 25 united regions would take part in Russia's "restoration". This plan may be the most realistic of all the plans previously proposed by the opposition, although its authors emphasize that the "window of opportunity" after Putin's departure will be small and the united opposition will have to confront radical patriotic groups that also expect to use force.
Another problem is the purposeful policy of the Kremlin to destroy national and regional elites.. For example, the former governor of the Sverdlovsk region, Eduard Rossel, who held this post from the early 1990s to 2009, advocated the creation of the Ural Republic. Rossel stated that his goal is not the sovereignty of the Sverdlovsk region, but its economic and legal independence. However, the republic was not officially recognized, and after 2014 its supporters were accused of “working for the CIA” and hoping for the collapse of Russia. Since 2009, the governors of the region were not representatives of elites from other regions. One of the last remaining popular Ural politicians, Yevgeny Roizman, is currently under investigation on charges of “discrediting the army.” Similar situations can be observed in other areas.

However, practice has shown that even the authorities sent from other regions eventually begin to defend local interests.. For example, last year, the current governor of the Sverdlovsk region, Yevgeny Kuyvashev, openly came into conflict with the talking head Solovyov. Thus, it becomes clear that the formation of regional elites is possible even within the framework of Putin's vertical of power.

Another problem may be the impossibility of determining the true motives of today's Russian elites (federal or regional), which may express a desire to negotiate with the opposition. Intelligence agencies of various countries regularly report on the Kremlin's attempts to infiltrate opposition movements.. At the same time, Russian intelligence sometimes operates under a "false flag" using systemic liberals. Logically, when some intra-elite groups find themselves in a difficult situation, they will have to negotiate, and not resort to spy games. However, the possibility of such games and possible cheating cannot be ruled out.

The third problem is that some opposition groups do not want such a coalition, preferring to act as a “revolutionary party”. In particular, oppositionist Ilya Krasilshchik in the article “Why I am a supporter of Navalny” wrote that the Anti-Corruption Fund is the only “opposition force with real support”, and therefore everyone should rally around it and nothing else.

The war in Ukraine has been going on for 9 years. 15 month lasts a full-scale invasion. But the Russian opposition still cannot decide how best to act in order to remove Putin, and after the “clean-up” begin to share power and govern Russia. The sooner the anti-war forces find a compromise in terms of the desired image of the future Russia, the more likely they will be able to effectively influence the situation in post-Putin Russia and generally enter the circle of elites. Otherwise, the aggressor will remain the aggressor, and the opposition will remain in exile, loudly sniffing and indignant.