Who’s Afraid of Alexei Navalny?

Protests continue in Russia, the Proud Boys are falling apart, and some nice Soviet-era Funk.

“A man is detained while protesting the arrest of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny.”
“A man is detained while protesting the arrest of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny.”
“A man is detained while protesting the arrest of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny.”
“A man is detained while protesting the arrest of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny.”
“A man is detained while protesting the arrest of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny.”
“A man is detained while protesting the arrest of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny.” 

That was the photo caption, over and over, in a Reuters picture gallery on the protests in Moscow, St. Petersburg and elsewhere. The images themselves appeared to show people getting the shit kicked out of them in many cases, including one where a man is facedown in the snow with armored cops standing over him.

Thousands were detained this weekend across 85 cities, The New York Times reports. Thousands were detained last weekend, too. Experts say the protests are the largest and most forceful in at least a decade. Putin himself has been in power for more than 20 years.

Navalny is in a Russian prison, which he must have known would be the outcome when he returned to Russia from Germany where he was being treated after being poisoned with a nerve agent administered by agents of the state. How can we be sure he was poisoned by his government? He tricked the poisoners into revealing it.

What does this all mean? And does Vladimir Putin finally have an adversary to fear? We’ll be talking this week to Mark Galeotti—expert on all that is Russia—so stay tuned for the episode.

Western audiences get excited when Russians protest. There’s a sense in America and Europe that Putin is bound to fall. The Putin biographies and explainers published in the English speaking world see him as a Bond-villain—a spy-master turned dictator. 

But Western views of Russia often say far more about the West than they do about Russia. Politicians turn Russia into a boogeyman, military leaders project Cold War baggage onto it, and civilians want to shove Moscow into its conceptions of good versus evil. The truth is always more complicated and only time will tell what the impact of these protests will be.

All that said, something about these protests feels different. 

Angry Planet

Get the week started right with some Soviet-era psychedelica.

Myanmar decided to show America the meaning of the word coup. The military there has detained top level politicians, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

The United Arab Emirates have built a massive urban warfare training complex to teach its soldiers how to fight in cities.

The founder of the neo-Nazi militant group “The Base” had some kind of nervous breakdown on his Telegram channel. He went from pushing The Turner Diaries to earnestly posting about women. Not a great look for the master race.

Trump and his legal team (which, much to Matthew’s shame, included four South Carolina lawyers) have parted ways. Apparently the ex-Prez wanted them to spend his impeachment trial claiming he had actually won the election.

The legal fallout from the Capitol Hill riots continues apace and it looks like the events might shatter the once-Proud Boys. Leader Enrique Tarrio allegedly loves talking to authorities and informing on his buddies. On Friday night, prosecutors charged members of the group with conspiracy, assaulting an officer, and civil disorder

at top: World Economic Forum photo

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