Offering Russians unilateral visa-free to the EU – is one of the major proposals of the Alliance of European Liberals and Democrats announced at a year conference on EU-Russia relations #EURussia, taking place on the third anniversary of Boris Nemtsov assassination.
The move is meant in ‘immediate and unconditional’ support of the civil society, experiencing difficulty of alienation from Europe, while regular Russians increasingly perceive the EU as an antagonistic power, especially after confrontation with the negative consequences of the EU Enlargement policy, leading to conflicts in Georgia and Ukraine.
“The biggest mistake on our behalf towards the West is that we trusted you too much,” President Vladimir Putin said. He underlined that the West, in their turn, made an unforgivable mistake – abused this trust.
Would the visa-free enhance exchanges, people-to-people contacts and heal the profound mistrust Russians feel towards the West? While Donetsk and Lugansk are under siege, and Russian children go to school risking being shot by shelling of Ukrainian army, while so-called ‘Syrian opposition’, supported by European, kills Russian pilots on counter-terrorist missions, – while the bloodshed is going on, it will be rather simplistic to consider that visa-free would restore the harmony. Although had it ever existed in relations between Europe and Russia?..
Image: citizens’ journalism ‘Killed children of Donbass’
The victims of the bomb explosion in Saint-Petersburg supermarket are ironic about the qualifying of the blast as a “murder attempt in public place”: “Assassinating us for food baskets?!”. The official version is obviously doubtful, taking into consideration the fact of the home-made engine spreading shrapnel or “frag” – fast-moving pieces of metal thrown off by a detonation, leaving 10 people seriously injured, and one in a critical condition. Among wounded is also a pregnant women.
The investigation is led by the National anti-terrorist committee, however the word “terrorism” is avoided in public discourse; the video with major suspect entering the supermarket, and some other images of the interior with damages were published by the anti-terrorist committee as well. The obvious official hypocrisy has political reasons.
Petersburg media interpreted the approach of the authorities as an attempt to play down the gravity of the situation, damaging New Year celebrations atmosphere in town. The issue is particularly delicate, because the blast happened in the home city of the incumbent and future President of Russia Vladimir Putin, who will be re-elected on 18 March under slogans of “stability” (read “stagnation”). The terrorist act during festivities, committed by an individual of “non-Slavic” appearance, as the investigators stated, is seriously undermining the Disney-land image of happy and stable Russia the clans at power are attempting to project, justifying their choice for continuity of Putin’s unchallenged reign.
The rise of Islamists in Russia is aggravated by open border with the Central Asian countries, influenced by Islamic State radicals, who are constructing a belt from Iraq to Afghanistan, via Central Asian countries, regrouping their forces after the major defeat of the Caliphate in the Middle East.
Barring of Russian politician, and fighter against corruption, Alexei Navalny turns next year presidential elections into a soap a long time before it starts. The powerful opponent of Vladimir Putin is out of the race, so Kremlin can be sure there will be no unpleasant surprises while opening of ballot boxes.
The farce of the politically motivated trial does signal a clear message to Russians, and to the world: the authoritarian is there to stay. In a way Putin beats Leonid Brezhnev record of 18 years: from inauguration on 7th of May 2000 to potential 2024 makes his reign 30% longer that the tzar’s of late Soviet stagnation.
The mechanical removal of Navalny is meaning Russia’s return to its very self, developing from crisis to crisis, with biological renewal of the leadership over lengthy periods of stagnation in between.. “White tzars, red tzars, grey tzars”, – Johan Le Carre’s definition of Russia’s political history can’t be described better in a few words.