How oppositionist is the Russian “Opposition”? What ideas do they share in the media, also in Ukrainian media where they are invited even after more than a year into the full-scale war? How does their activity impact the international opinion, and therefore the attitude to the Russian-Ukrainian war? OPORA team was looking for answers to these questions in a thorough study of the media activity of Russians who present themselves as opposition to the current Russian government. 


The authors of the study analyzed the Twitter accounts of Russian “oppositionists” but the links to their original posts are not included intentionally, in order not to promote the profiles of Russians among the Ukrainian audiences.

In the previous long read, the researchers analyzed how the “opposition” associations of the Anti-War Committee and the Forum of Free Russia see the Russia’s exit strategy from a full-scale war. This article will focus on by far the most famous Russian “opposition” community in Ukraine and in the world — the Navalny Team. OPORA team has been investigating the Twitter activity of some representatives of this association for almost a year (from February 24, 2022 to February 7, 2023).

The objective of this study is to find out what the Russian “opposition” really is and what challenges we would face if they come to power.

While the “Shahids”, “Daggers” and kamikaze drones of the enemy keep flying in the Ukrainian sky, the information-based war keeps running, too. Its aggravation is never notified by an air alarm, though. In addition to the constant retention of foreigners' attention to the full-scale war in Ukraine, Ukrainians now have to win back the media platforms from the so-called Russian opposition. In fact, the Western media willingly invite them to various live broadcasts, radio and television programs. Of course, calling themselves the opposition, such Russians somehow talk about basic democratic beliefs and values, the end of war in Ukraine, the establishment of peace and justice on Ukraine’s terms. However, if you carefully analyze their statements, you can see that it is far from their key topic. Today, the key goal of Russian “oppositionists”, like any politicians, is quite simple: to win the commitment of as many voters as possible.

Who Are Navalny Team?

Navalny Team are supporters of the Russian “oppositionist” Alexei Navalny. It was established in 2011, after he founded the Anti-Corruption Foundation (further — ACF). But he started his public and political activity back in 2004. He founded the “Committee for the Protection of Muscovites.” They addressed issues related to the improvement and protection of the rights and freedoms of Moscow residents. Later, human rights and anti-corruption trends shaped further Navalny’s public activity. Eventually, it institutionalized upon establishing the ACF. In 2013, he ran for mayor of Moscow and came second after the current capital city head, Sergey Sobyanin.

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Navalny Team. Photo: picture-alliance, AP Photo

In August 2020, Russian special services attempted an assassination at the so-called oppositionist; they poisoned him with a nerve agent “Novichok”. After rehabilitation from the consequences of this attack, Navalny was arrested at the airport, upon arrival to Russia, because of fraud and legalization of criminal funds. For the next 9 years, he must serve his sentence in a strict regime colony. The investigation of this case was featured by a Canadian film director, Daniel Roher, made a documentary “Bulk.” In 2023, he received an Oscar in the “Best Documentary” nomination. It looks like a typical dossier of an ardent activist whose activities are bothering for the current government. But it’s not all that smooth. Attentive observers have long noticed how skillfully Navalny created an information bubble around himself, which motivates people not only to empathize with him but also to heroize him. Even the case with the presentation of the “Oscar” was part of the game using Hollywood techniques, as aptly noticed by Azad Safarov, the second director and line producer of the film “A House Made of Splinters,” also nominated for this film award. So, before we move on to the study findings, let us see what Navalny “loaded” on everyone.

"The Crimean Question"

One of the most resonant statements that Navalny is still known for in Ukraine is his comment about Crimea, in an interview with the Russian radio station, Echo of Moscow, in 2014. In that case, he was asked a direct question by the interviewer Alexei Venediktov “Is Crimea ours?” and Navalny replied that the peninsula belonged to the people living there. The politician said that although “Crimea was seized with flagrant violations of all international norms,” it is de facto Russian. He also advised Ukrainians to accept the idea that “Crimea will remain part of Russia and will never again become Ukrainian in the near future.” When asked whether Navalny would return Crimea to Ukraine if he were to become a president of the Russian Federation, he replied with the notorious words: “Crimea isn’t a sausage sandwich, is it? To turn it back and forth?” However, no one heard any definitive words from the “oppositionist” claiming that the peninsula was Ukrainian. Since these words of Navalny continue to shape the reputation of his associates, they have to return to this topic from time to time.

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To ultimately understand how Navalny relates to the Russian occupation of the Crimea, some video materials of his team members were reviewed as an exception in the study. Those videos allegedly debunked myths about their leader. In the first place, Leonid Volkov accused the Echo of Moscow interviewer. He said that he deliberately provoked Navalny staying on house arrest to comment on the issue of Crimea. Volkov also emphasizes that in the past, the so-called Crimean consensus dominated among the Russian political elite. According to him, Putin then managed to “sell” to his people the idea of occupying Crimea and get reputational dividends from this. Therefore, any statements against it meant almost political suicide for any politician. It must be admitted that despite this, in that interview, Navalny dared to adhere to his position and condemn the criminal seizure of the Ukrainian peninsula.