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What Navalny case says about Russia’s approach in Syria

The case of Russia opposition figure Alexey Navalny — and the Kremlin's reaction to his investigations — tells a lot about Moscow's approach to the conflict in Syria.
BERLIN, GERMANY - JANUARY 23: Some 2500 supporters of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny  marched in protest demand for his release from prison in Moscow on January 23, 2021 in Berlin, Germany. The protesters marched from the federal chancellery through the Russian embassy to Brandenburg Gate in part also heeding a call by Navalny to protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin. Navalny, who was arrested earlier this week upon his return to Moscow from Germany, has called for protests against

The events of the Arab Spring became a convenient reference point for journalists and experts whenever the topic of contemporary protests within the United or Russia was brought up. The parallels were stark as President Vladimir Putin’s third presidential term started against the backdrop of street demonstrations in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square as protest activity ramped up in Syria and transitioned into a full-blown civil war. Putin’s own supporters equated the two events, framing them as national governments fighting “foreign aggression.” Yet that message had to be abandoned to avoid unfavorable connotations for the Kremlin stemming from the anti-dictatorial nature of the protests in the Middle East.

The recent mass protests in Russia sparked by the detention of opposition activist Alexey Navalny and his investigation revealing the details of an opulent palace allegedly belonging to Putin have led some observers in the Middle East to again draw certain parallels with events in the region. There are already comparisons between Navalny’s return to Moscow after his poisoning by the military-grade nerve agent Novichok and the possible return to Syria of opposition leaders. They, too, it is argued, could challenge President Bashar al-Assad even though they face imminent arrest once they set foot in the country.

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