EVENT TRANSCRIPT: Putin Versus Navalny: How Should the UK Respond?
DATE: 16th February 2021, 3.00pm – 4.00pm
SPEAKERS: Dr Jade McGlynn, Vladimir Ashurkov
EVENT MODERATOR: Dr Jade McGlynn
Dr Jade McGlynn 00:00
Thank you very much to our audience for joining us today. My name is Jade Glynn. I head up the Russian Research Study Centre and today I’ll be in discussion with Mr. Vladimir Ashurkov, Executive Director of Alexei Navalny’s anti-corruption foundation in Russia. Mr. Ashurkov is a successful businessman but as a prominent critic of Vladimir Putin, was compelled to leave Russia and he was granted asylum in the UK in 2015, from where he has continued his battle against corruption, including through the famous kleptocracy tours around properties owned by Russian Ukrainian, a Kazakh elite. He is therefore well placed to answer some important questions that are often and perhaps conveniently side-lined in his movement in the West, in particular, pertaining to Navalny’s very prominent anti-corruption message and work shortly after Navalny’s arrest immediately upon returning to Russia, Vladimir Ashurkov released a pre-agreed list of eight Kremlin unassociated Russians to be targeted by Western governments for sanctions, and at least three of them had very close ties to the UK. This list has since been supplemented to 35 individuals, including the original eight, including in a letter sent to the new Biden administration and in a letter to our foreign secretary, Dominic Rabb. We’re going to be discussing on these letters, individuals and the broad issue around them today. But before we begin, I just have a tiny bit of housekeeping. So everybody should be muted. And if you’d like to ask a question, please type them into the Q&A function. And then later on, we’ll gather the questions together. And we’ll ask you certain people to certainly question and we’ll ask you to unmute yourself and to ask it directly to readiness. So, on that note, let us begin and let’s start, perhaps not from the very beginning, but just at least through Navalny’s return to Russia. So, Vladimir, thank you for joining us today. Why did Alexei Navalny return to Russia knowing that he most likely faced imprisonment, and of course, that FSB had tried to assassinate him.
Vladimir Ashurkov 02:21
Hello, everybody. Jade, thank you for having me. So let’s get right into it. The return of Alexei Navalny, well, it wasn’t really a question for him, whether he should return or not. The work of his life is in Russia, the organisation that he created has millions of supporters, he has done nothing wrong. So, it was only natural that he would return to his home country after his treatment in Germany. Of course, he considered various scenarios and the scenario that we saw his incarceration was quite probable. Although it was not 100% certain, so, um, you know, he made arrangements with his colleagues and he boarded that plane to Moscow.
Dr Jade McGlynn 03:32
I have to say, as someone whose first degree is in Russian literature, that sort of bravery does seem to be share the features of an epic novel, but perhaps there are also some logical breaches, or perhaps rather communicated with Alexei Navalny since his incarceration in prison.
Vladimir Ashurkov 03:55
He is seen only by a lawyer who comes several times a week. And they speak through not directly, but there’s like a phone installation there in the room and so it’s not easy. There is no direct contact with the outside world. Alexei, on the other hand, he speaks quite eloquently in the last few weeks. He was attending several court hearings, and over the last few days, also there’s a bizarre case of deformation of an elderly war veteran that that he is fighting in the court and he really exposes this court hearing as a mockery of justice that. He is able to communicate little snippets of his statements to everybody. So, it shows that he’s in good spirits, in good health, from what we can see. And he’s a fighter.
Dr Jade McGlynn 05:25
From watching some of the court cases, he certainly seems to have a very enduring sense of humour. My favourite was when he asked the judge to be removed from the court. Okay, so moving on to slightly more on point for big of this discussion. Is there anything that you think the West can do to help Alexei Navalny’s release or is the focus much more on what the West should be doing to fight against corruption or condemning corruptions?
Vladimir Ashurkov 05:58
I think the issue and the agenda for the Western countries in dealing with Russia is much wider than just Navalny and his fate, although he has become the symbol of the fight against corruption and for a more representative political system in Russia. Of course, the European Union, the UK, the US they have a number of strategic issues in dealing with Russia, it’s very multi-factored and while I don’t want to be naïve to assume that the treatment and persecution of Alexei Navalny is the number one topic that the Western countries will be discussing with their Russian counterparts when they meet or discuss things, there is no silver bullet. There is no set of measures that Western countries can adopt, even if there were political will, so that they could influence the behaviour of Russian authorities. There are some things that can be done. One of the things is personal sanctions, something that Alexei has advocated for years. The West cannot do a lot and the job of changing the current repressive and authoritarian political system was something more liberal is the job for Russians. But the Western countries can help and we worked with Alexi while he was still in Germany recovering, we worked with him on a list of people who would be priority for sanctioning and we worked on the on the dossier on them for submission to the US, UK and EU governments. And the list of eight as the priority sort of list, is something that we discussed literally just a few days before he boarded that plane to Moscow. We did not plan to make this list public because before we would prepare the submissions to the respective agencies. When I saw how unlawful and how brutal Alex’s detention was, I felt compelled to make this less public and to appeal to Western governments so that the action can be taken faster. So that’s one of the things. There’s another thing which we may talk about if we talk more broadly about what the West can do. And one thing that comes to mind is helping Belarus because that’s a country where really the front of the fight between freedom and oppression really takes place in real time. it unfolds as we speak and over the last six months. But that’s a separate issue. We can talk about it later.
Dr Jade McGlynn 09:53
No I hopefully we will set aside some time to come onto similar issues. I’m including of course, on Belarus and the recent the remarkable bravery and determination of their protesters. I wanted, though to raise a question, just still staying on the sanctions, and particularly this list of individual sanctions, why are individual as opposed to general or sectoral sanctions so important here? Why is it important to sanction individuals as opposed to something that could maybe be framed as sanctioning Russia?
Vladimir Ashurkov 10:30
Well, sanctions in general is not really an ideal instrument. It’s quite blunt. There is not, you know, judicial procedure where the parties can argue, and there is an independent judge presiding over this, who is determined to find the truth. Sanctions is a political decision and with little, if any, records from the party who is sanctioned. So I think it has to be used sparingly. We have never supported, sectoral or other industry sanctions, because there isn’t a lot of evidence on whether they work or not. And we as being, you know, Russian politicians, any sectoral sanctions will inevitably hurt the interest of Russians. Whether it’s white population, whether it’s more, you know, business elite, in contrast to the personal sanctions against the people who are involved in corruption, and in abuse of human rights. And the list of people that we published, we definitely see is a list of those people. It doesn’t have downsides for an average Russian. So that’s why we have always advocated individual sanctions, and with respect to the rest of possible spectrum of measures that Western countries can take the other kinds of sanctions, other measures, we trust the political process in the Western countries, and they can make those decisions themselves.
Dr Jade McGlynn 12:38
I think obviously, this is an important distinction. If we focus on the eight people, so the original priority list, if it will, there are people on there who it’s fair to say have very strong ties to the UK. The UK and in particular, London has been said to store a fair amount of money from Kremlin associated figures, including politicians or heads of state-owned banks. Would you say that this puts a particular responsibility on the UK arm to lead? And also do you think that in the UK, people are aware of this responsibility that they have, to take the lead in anti-corruption?
Vladimir Ashurkov 13:25
Well, I think that the UK by far is the most attractive place for Russians, for Russian business elites to engage in terms of, you know, storing money, relocating, buying property, etc. It has been like this for years, it concerns not just legitimate money, but a lot of legitimate money London has in Europe, probably one of the largest communities of Russian speaking people. So and I have to say that most of the money that comes to London, from Russia is legitimate business, you know, business people who have made their fortunes in Russia. However, of course, there are bad apples and the UK has not really been policing this dirty money well over the last years and whether the UK political establishment and the population more generally recognises this responsibility. I think it’s an open question. But to people in the professional circles: they the lawyers, the financiers, the bankers, the property agents, I don’t think they have any doubt as to the extent and the existence and the extent of dirty money coming in through the UK.
Dr Jade McGlynn 15:25
Of course, whether or not they choose to report it is a different question. If you’ll forgive me for a more technical question, but you spoke about sort of releasing on dossier or under list of sanctions, yet obviously the UK Government can’t just sanction people without a fair amount of evidence? How do we meet the burden of proof for some of these sanctions? I know that the anti-corruption Foundation has published a lot of material on individuals, but there are some individuals there where material hasn’t been published on for example, on Abramovich or how can that burden of proof be met? Or is that something you think that UK Government should be looking into itself?
Vladimir Ashurkov 16:17
There are several avenues for sanctions. The UK has adopted a number of, let’s say waves of sanctions related to Russia since 2014. Recently, the Magnitsky legislation which was adopted two or three years ago added to the list of instruments that can be used in this respect, and that created a channel for the civil society to engage with the UK, government with submissions on sanctions. We realise that such decisions have to be based on evidence and we will, we’ll be providing such evidence on the 35 people to the UK Government within the next weeks. At the same time, the UK government – it’s naive to say that they would be relying on an external party like ourselves, civil activists from Russia, you know, preparing a case that would automatically be sort of approved by the relevant agencies. I am sure that Foreign Office and the Home Office would make their own due diligence would make their own investigations. Well, me and our team are have gained some fame and recognition for being able to conduct investigations that in some cases have been groundbreaking. But if we compare it to the amount of information that the relevant UK agencies have, like the financial monitoring agencies, the SFO the National Crime agencies are the Financial Intelligence, I’m sure very the evidence on people like you know, if we talk about the people with the UK Nexus like Abramovich was smart enough to show all of the wealth of information of non-public information that they have on those, I’m sure dwarfs whatever we can submit.
Dr Jade McGlynn 19:03
Thank you for that. And before actually, I just like to remind our audience to please type in your questions into the Q&A box. But sorry for that slight deviation from the questions. Okay, I want to look at a slightly different angle. If it’s possible, they still remaining on the sanctions list. If we look at some of the large if we look at the large list, some of the people individuals who are mentioned here are we may perhaps me to use the term loosely but they’re essentially what we’ve what could be described as journalists reading people say like Vladimir Solovyov, Margarita Simonyan. What about the potential for retaliation? So for example, on the BBC Russian service, which was a really important resource during the Ukraine crisis where viewing figures really went up because people saw it as a trusted source of information. Is there a risk that this retaliation is asymmetrical and actually could in further impact or impoverish the Russian media?
Vladimir Ashurkov 20:12
The, again, we’re not advocating sanctions against any entities, we’re locating sanctions against individuals. And this list includes several people who work in the media. I wouldn’t call them journalists, because I think that’s a bar too high for them to reach. I think it’s a common knowledge that Russian state media outlets have turned over the last decade into propaganda outlets. If we talk about Margarita Simonyan, the head of Russia Today Channel that has become sort of external channel of propaganda for Russian government spreading misinformation and lies, or Vladimir Solovyov, probably the most notorious TV hosts involved in the propaganda campaign and smear campaign. Talking about real potential retaliation, I mean, the probably the easiest thing to do is to do nothing. And unfortunately, too often, the UK Government elected to do just that. When I remember the Skripal poisoning in 2018, Theresa May, just a few days or a few weeks after this tragic accident, made a very, a very vivid speech and talked about a range of retaliation actions against Russian actions which led to deaths of British citizens in on UK soil. But essentially nothing happened other than expulsion of a few diplomats. The people who are associated with corruption and human rights abuse, continue to have unhindered access to their properties to their assets in the UK and can freely travel here. I hope there will be enough political will to take a more principled stand this time, but it still remains to be seen.
Dr Jade McGlynn 22:59
I mean, just to come back on that point. What do you think are the main obstacles to really finding that political will? Do you think that perhaps there’s a problem in the UK with people i.e. the government perhaps not understanding that this isn’t just a question of, of dirty money, essentially, that this is actually they didn’t realise how connected this money is to, to the Kremlin, and to keeping not just the collective Putin as well to keeping the system in place? Do you think that there’s some kind of disconnect there?
Vladimir Ashurkov 23:38
I think any government would like to maintain flexibility and adopting sanctions, does limit this flexibility. And we’ve seen it in the US where they adopted the Magnitsky legislation. The US was the first country to adopt such new type of legislation, which is sweeping in the fact that it deals with the human rights abuse and corruption globally, without relation to any US entity or person. At that time, US State Department was quite heavily against that and it was only through efforts of Congressman that this legislation was adopted. So any government doesn’t like to implement sanctions. Whether there is some ulterior motive in this lack of political will, whether It’s a result of lobbying or of donations to different parties, I’m a believer in the resilience of UK political system and I trust that it on average works. On average is transparent and accountable. I’m not a big fan of any conspiracy theories in this respect that Russian money has corrupted the Downing Street and the parliament. Let’s see what comes out of it.
Dr Jade McGlynn 25:40
He mentioned the US just there in your answer. And I wonder if I could go back to just ask a couple of questions around the US. The new Biden administration has been very vocal about its focus on kleptocracy, and seeing it as it you know, a huge global challenge that’s really high up on their agenda. Without wanting to retrace too much the steps we’ve already discussed, I presume that you would like to see similar agendas from other countries? Do you think that the Biden administration is focused on kleptocracy, will have a knock on impact on the EU and the UK?
Vladimir Ashurkov 26:18
I think it’s still early days, the administration has just recently been formed. I don’t want to make predictions. Our role is to make a statement to send a message to communicate to the US administrations and other countries, what we think is the right course of action. But ultimately, it’s the political process in these respective countries and it’s not something that we would, you know, meddle or opine on. I have to add a little bit on the on the sanctions, the message that we would like the Western countries to send to these people, I think, should be the following. That we believe there’s evidence that suggests that you have been involved in corruption and human rights abuse in Russia. The right forum, the right place, where these potential crimes should be investigated, is Russia and you have made enormous money there, you’ve gained enormous power there. And that’s where is the right place for this investigation and court procedure to take place. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to expect that this will happen in today’s Russia, and you are the people who helped the current Russian administration to create this regime. So we are not saying that you’re criminals, we are not saying that you are scoundrels and bad people, we would just like you to stay away from our countries, don’t stick your dubious money into our financial system, don’t buy assets, just stay away. Until we can assert that a proper process is established in Russia, and these suspicions that we have against you are properly investigated in your home country, something like that.
Dr Jade McGlynn 28:47
Okay. Thank you for that clarification. I wonder if we could move to talk about maybe some of your thoughts on some other aspects beyond sanctions, and perhaps broaden their discussion to include the EU as well. I wonder sort of what other measures you would like, sort of to see from external actors such as the EU or the UK or the USA, both in a negative and positive sense. So, for example, if you had any thoughts on Nord Stream, and also if you could return to your earlier point about what we could be doing to support the protesters or the opposition in Belarus, as well, and how you see that’s connected to what’s happening in Russia.
Vladimir Ashurkov 29:31
Okay, so there were a few questions there. Sorry. Yeah. Nord Stream, I don’t have a position on Nord Stream. There, you know, deep economic interests involved on the part of Gazprom, on the part of Germany as the potential future recipient of gas through this pipeline. This issue has been politicised. Again, our position is that we don’t have a position on non-personal sanctions. We trust, you know, Germany, first of all, and the relevant other countries and parties to make the decision. From what I hear, my assessment is that Nord Stream Two is not happening anyway. I would be surprised if it does proceed. But we’ll see. So that was the Nord Stream question. Can you repeat the other ones?
Dr Jade McGlynn 30:48
I wondered if you could expand a bit upon a topic that you raised earlier in our discussion around the importance of supporting the the opposition movement in Belarus, and how you see the sort of interconnectedness, if any, between what’s happening in Belarus and the protests as we’ve seen in Russia,
Vladimir Ashurkov 31:09
Belarus, we’ve seen the, the case in Belarus is much more clear than in Russia, in that we had elections, that by wide recognition of observers, by polls, and you know, by public reaction, we’re not won by the incumbent, President Lukashenko. That a fact. In Russia. I mean, we can argue about the presidential elections in Russia in that the independent candidates were not allowed on the ballot list, in that there was rigging. But I don’t think it would be fair to say that Putin did not get majority of votes cast in that election. In Belarus, the situation is different. And these, this rigging resulted in peaceful mass protests that are continuing today. And I think Lukashenko’s regime is much weaker than Putin’s regime and the EU and Europe as a whole have more levers and more instruments on how to influence the situation in Belarus, both publicly and non-public channels. And I think that’s where sort of the fight between the good and evil, between a democratically minded people and a authoritarian dictator is at its most visible in today’s Europe. So whatever help you can give to the Belarusian public, which is intent on having a better government then, then what we see now, I think that this will go a long way towards changing the situation in Russia or towards the start of liberalisation in Russia.
Dr Jade McGlynn 34:00
Just picking up on that point, in some ways. This is perhaps obvious, this question that I’ve been thinking about, regarding sort of the broader Navalny movement, of course, it’s about his own political sort of ambition. Of course, it’s mainly about anti-corruption, different elements, but to what extent is the Navalny movement and the movement of everybody involved? Is it about actually defending or even restoring in terms of real politics sort of real political life and sort of keeping it keeping it going? Is that fair?
Vladimir Ashurkov 34:39
This is the core of what we stand for. I mean, there is, of course, the manifesto, the economic and political programme, that we publish whenever there are elections in which Alexei or our party or our candidates participate, but it’s at its core, of course, it’s the restoration of the feedback mechanism between the society and the government that in Russia have been eliminated or reserved: representative political system, free mass media, independent judiciary. This is the core of what our movement stands for.
Dr Jade McGlynn 35:33
And thank you. And I suppose if we were to think forward to perhaps, you know, a Russia with a different government and more democratically, I’m inclined, not necessarily more pro-Western, but more democratically kind of government. What is the possibility that because Western governments have failed to sort of fight back or make it clear that, you know, have failed to sort of disentangle themselves from so much from the corruption associated with the Kremlin, what is the chance that this could fuel anti-Western sentiment in future in future generations? And then poison relations for the future as well after Putin?
Vladimir Ashurkov 36:21
I don’t like to use such strong words as failed. Anything is in development, they have been more tolerance towards corruption before this, can this change tomorrow? I hope it does. I am not giving up on the political will of Western governments to be more to be less tolerant towards corruption and human rights abuse. And ultimately, it’s for the Russians to change the system in Russia. I mean, Western we live in a global world. We all live in a world that is interconnected. So the Western countries play an important role. But it’s silly to blame them for the change not happening in Russia as quickly as most people would like to.
Dr Jade McGlynn 37:32
Okay, thank you. And then a final question before we go to the audience Q&A, which is that if the West were to impose individual sanctions, obviously, in previous cases, were they weren’t individual, but still, of course, then they may not necessarily be framed in an entirely fair way in the Russian media. We’ve seen quite a strong ‘rallying around the flag effect’. And of course, one of the favourite state lines around Navalny’s movement is that he’s working for Western intelligence services and sort of foreign agent legislation as well, that’s used against US anti-corruption nation. Is Western support not going to be a double-edged sword here if the individual sanctions were applied?
Vladimir Ashurkov 38:27
I think in politics, and in life in general, people should listen to their values, rather than anticipating any kind of response from adversary and trying to second guess what the reaction will be. The importance of sanctions of individual sanctions, I think, is threefold. First, is of course, punishing, or trying to keep away these perpetrators of potential perpetrators of crimes of corruption, human rights, abuse, that’s the first thing. Second, which I think is more important is deterrent for other people who are involved in these crimes. In Russia, and in other countries, let’s say there is 5000 or 10,000 people in Russia, on whom really, this regime stands the top level political elites, the business elite. If 100 people have this 10,000 is sanctioned is and their rights to use the west for travel for investment etc. is curbed. I think the rest of the people would think twice before being, you know, active supporters of the current repressive regime. So, deterrent factor, I think is very important. And the third is that the Western countries should do sanctions, not just for the sake of the Russians or the sake of bringing forward the political change in Russia, but it’s in their national interest. If the West were less tolerant to corruption and human rights abuse over the last 15/20 years, then we probably wouldn’t have seen such a courageous and assertive Mr. Putin. He would think twice before annexing Crimea, and meddling in eastern Ukraine, which left over 10,000 people dead. He would think twice about using slash funds provided by some of the people on our list to finance covert operations, along the lines of the cyber hacks that we’ve seen, over the last five years related to US elections, related to recent hacks into US government agencies. And this is just the visible tip of the iceberg of the entire sort of system of covert actions that Russia does to undermine the western order. So it’s very much in the interest of the Western countries to take a more principled stance.
Dr Jade McGlynn 41:57
Thank you. Thank you very much. So I’m now going to move to the audience questions. I’m going to ask select a set of free questions, I’m going to ask the selected question is that asked their questions in a row, and then you can discuss them afterwards? Um, so the first question I would like to ask, I’m Frank Gardner from the BBC. Frank Gardner asks, given the past attempts to assassinate Alexei Navalny. What are his chances of surviving for years in prison, where presumably anyone can be paid off to look the other way?
Vladimir Ashurkov 43:00
Nobody has a crystal ball on what’s going to happen. Of course, the risks to Alex’s life are much greater in Russian prison than in, you know, on the streets of Berlin. We believe that the calculation of Russian Russian authorities that if they wanted to do something like that they would do it covertly. And this has been, you know, the history of assassinations of Navalny and the one in August is in most likelihood, not the first attempt at doing so. I chose that they want to do it covertly and maintain deniability, if something happens to him in prison, there won’t be any deniability in this respect. But again, you know, anything is possible. We, in our team, we believe that even though this verdict of 2.22 years and eight months has been adopted, things can change any day if there’s enough domestic pressure or if there’s enough international pressure that is applied. And if the Russian political authorities make it a determination that it’s in their interest not to create martyr of Mr. Navalny, they would find a legal way to let him go within a week or so we, our friend or colleague is unlawfully in prison and we will exert all our efforts to try to get him out, without, thinking about these timeframes that are set by this unlawful verdicts. Okay,
Dr Jade McGlynn 45:13
Thank you. For the next question, I would like to ask Maria Shagina to ask her question, especially because I really enjoy our work on sanctions.
Maria Shagina 45:26
Hi, can you hear me? Thank you very much Jade for inviting to ask the question. I’m working on Russia sanctions in particular. And I was wondering if you could elaborate more how you selected those 35 targets in particular? Is it based on Alexei Navalny’s list of people who are involved in corruption? Or is it on based on the assumption that these people would put more pressure on the inner circle on Putin in particular to change behaviour. And given that, you know, 35 people will be impossible to implement sanctions on all of them, which top three to five targets would you identify that should be implemented across us, EU and the UK.
Vladimir Ashurkov 46:22
A list of this nature would be subjective, you know, there are hundreds of people involved in corruption. And in human rights abuse in Russia, these are the people who have been visible in international media or in domestic media. These are you can say, these are household names, most of them too often sanctions before touched upon, you know, the security operatives who were involved in Ukrainian operations or in some, you know, cyber operations. And for FSB operatives, they don’t usually go to the Western countries, they don’t have assets. So the efficiency of the sanctions against those people would, is questionable. Um, the people on our list, some of them are, you know, some of the wealthiest and most influential people in Russian politics and in business, so if those people are sanctioned, that would really send a strong men message and have an impact. We divided this list into three parts one is so called wallets. So business men who have obtained their money through corruption, and you know, are still part of a closed circle around portion of people who do different favours for the political authorities of Russia and you don’t have to go very far to look for evidence. If we take Mr. Abramovich in his well publicised court trial with Boris Berezovsky, it’s his evidence and statements that really introduced the Russian word ‘krisha’ into the global sort of vocabulary. And he didn’t deny that he made payments to various officials to protect and enhance his business interest if we’re talking about Mr. Smirnoff, there’s widely documented case, when Mr. S. was small enough, made a gift of a $15 million house in the suburbs of Moscow to a foundation linked to Dmitry Medvedev, who was the president of Russia at that time. And you know, we can go on and on about every person on that list. So there’s no science to it. But this is the list that that Alexei and I have worked on. So that’s the significant.
Dr Jade McGlynn 49:47
Thank you. And thank you, Maria for the question. Then our next questions comes from Steven Dalziel.
Stephen Dalziel 49:56
Thank you, Jade Vladimir, thanks very much for that and I’m slightly more skeptical. In fact, I’m greatly more sceptical than you are, I think about our government here in Britain. I think that the fact that they there they have the tool of the unexplained wealth order they could put into operation. And yet it’s one thing to go after the wife of an Azeri who’s sitting in jail in Baku. It’s another thing to go after big Russians. And yet that’s where the big money is. So I wonder if you could say a bit more about why you’re you have a bit more faith than then I do in our government. And if I could put a supplementary as well, when you’ve got this list of people, are you including in that their families too? I always thought that a stronger tactic would be to include the children of these people because they’re the ones who I’m not that I don’t want to see them here. I do want to see them there. But I want them to be able to put pressure on their parents say, look, if you actually acted in a decent and legitimate incorrupt way, then we all benefit from it. Thank you.
Vladimir Ashurkov 51:01
Thank you, I’ll start from the end of the question. You know, it’s not our place to micromanage the sanction process for the UK Government. They determine who gets sanctioned and who’s not. It makes sense to include the immediate families. But that’s ultimately not sort of our decision. We make a list of who we think is responsible. And you know, it certainly would be naive for us to tell for an office or home office, specifically what they should do. And what was the first question?
Dr Jade McGlynn 51:54
First question was why you have so much faith in the UK Government’s anti-corruption?
Vladimir Ashurkov 51:58
Alright, um, it’s not a matter of faith, I would not overestimate the issue of sanctions as a stream of work between different things that we do, as our team 90% of our work is in Russia, its investigations, its political work through our regional offices, it’s the ability to organise mass protests when there is, you know, a decision to do so. It’s, you know, I’m running our small media empire, the YouTube, the blogs, the different kinds of messages that we send out to different audiences, i.e., sanctions, is, you know, if we look at the whole spectrum of things that we do is not a very big thing. We it’s, we think it’s our role to have our voice heard. And I think we’ve done that with the letters that have sent to the US administration, to the UK Government to the EU, we promote our message, but ultimately, there’s so only so much that we can do we don’t need to have faith or not have faith. We are not, you know, under illusions so that we’re not easily disillusioned. We do what we do.
Dr Jade McGlynn 53:45
Thank you. So the next question, I would like to ask Alexander Titov to ask questions. Sir I think you have a few. So I don’t know if you want to pick one or one or two, to focus on.
Alexander Titov 54:00
Sorry. Hi. Sorry. Yeah, I have a couple of questions. But I think the two main ones would be about the return of the protests and whether in an overt, Alexei wanted to come back no matter what because it’s kind of his life’s work and so forth. But you know, did your him expect more out of the product in terms of impact? Or not? Or is that even exceeded your expectations already? What’s the scale of protests? And the other thing is about the sanctioning all the rich Russians. I’m just going to be sceptical while this thing I mean, we, you know, the previous question was, well, you know, wouldn’t the children tell them to behave and that would kind of be a deciding factor. But I mean, basically, the point is that if they start kind of putting pressure and this can just replace them Surely, I mean, there’s probably a for every, you know, super rich Russian, there’s another 20 from just below. The level below will just simply replace them and forego the villas in France in exchange for a lot of money in Russia itself. So just those questions if you ever know if you can answer them, thank you.
Vladimir Ashurkov 55:13
Alright, on protests, you know, I haven’t been to Russia in seven years. So it’s difficult for me to be in sync with what goes on the streets there. Frankly, speaking, I expected a smaller turnout. You know, when the protests were organised over the two weekends in January because, you know, there’s COVID restrictions and in some cities where the protests took place, the temperature dropped to less than minus 30 Celsius. So it’s really, really cold. And the police have shown over the last, you know, protest over the last two years, increasing brutality. More and more people are detained, more and more people are beaten up. And despite all that, we’ve seen record numbers of people on the streets, not just off, you know, the big cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg, but over 100 cities participated in the protests. And to me, that was really encouraging. I think the nature of the protest is changing. There’s more young people, people are more angry, we see some reports of skirmishes with the Security Police something that was not happening before. We’ve seen a lot of self-organisation of people around the detention centres where they organise, you know, help and the legal assistance, food, water, etc., for people who are detained. So I’m really encouraged on the front. That’s the question about the protests. The question on the sanctions and their efficiency. Again, there is no silver bullet, sanctioning these people who have been at the helm of how Russia is governed over the last 10/20 years, some of them longer. I think that would send a strong message. Because this situation, when these people can go on enjoying their ill-gotten, you know, wealth in the West without any sort of obstacles, is really to me it’s strange, it’s appalling. If you know, the newcomers into this elite, as you said, 20 people who would want to replace these top officials, they would think twice if they would learn that the Western countries follow them and the Western countries make note of the crimes that are happening, and they will not be sitting silent.
Dr Jade McGlynn 58:29
Thank you. I think unfortunately, we have lots of interesting questions. But sadly, our time is up. I hope that plenty more will join us again, sometime we can continue a discussion. But for now, thank you so much for joining us and thank you so much to all of our audience and our participants and everybody who asked the question, and of that I will say goodbye and thank you. Bye bye.