fedyk3_Evgeny Feldman for Alexey Navalny's campaign  HandoutAnadolu AgencyGetty Images_navalny Evgeny Feldman for Alexey Navalny's campaign / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
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Russia’s Opposition Leaders Are Irrelevant to Ukraine

Since Russian opposition parties’ immediate political goals have nothing to do with Ukraine’s fight for survival, Ukrainians understandably object to attempts to tie the two together. Once again, Russian political operatives see Ukraine as a strategic pawn that exists solely to advance their own interests.

BERKELEY – A year ago, two of us (Fedyk and Hodson) co-authored a commentary arguing that Russians would not rise up to stop President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine. There was too much suppression of dissent in Putin’s Russia, we noted, and too much real support for the war among the public. That assessment proved correct. Still, there is a lingering question: What role are Russian “opposition” parties playing in the conflict?

While Russian opposition figures like the jailed dissident Alexei Navalny have received ample attention in the West (a documentary about him was recently nominated for an Oscar), tensions have been rising between Russian opposition parties, on one hand, and the Ukrainians and their Eastern European friends, on the other. For example, TV Rain (Dozhd), a prominent channel aligned with the Russian opposition, lost its Latvian license for “displaying a map of Russia which included occupied Crimea and for calling Russian troops in Ukraine ‘our army.’”

The problem is that Russian opposition parties have their own goals and priorities, which may – or may not – align with those of the Ukrainians. Opposition to Putin does not necessarily make one a loyal friend to Ukraine.