While Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny recovers from poisoning in a Berlin hospital, his Anti-Corruption Foundation is keeping up its fight on behalf of Russian citizens.
The foundation just released a blistering video expose bluntly called “Bribes. Palaces. Planes. That’s what the people of Tatarstan were traded for.” The film alleges massive corruption in Russia and sets off to follow the money trail allegedly left by Tatarstan’s leader and his family.
Russia analyst Anna Zafesova, who has followed Navalny’s work closely, told Fox News she believes it’s vitally important that his team continue.
"Not only because it’s one of very few sources of free information about corruption and the abuse of power in Putin’s Russia, but also because it’s a sign that Navalny is not just a famous media person," she said. "He has dozens of young women and men perfectly capable of carrying on his investigative work. Maybe they are less charismatic than he, but they are proof that the Russian opposition is not only virtual and cannot be silenced with the poisoning of its leader.”
Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh and fellow team member Georgi Alburov front the Tatarstan film, and said they were followed and harassed while shooting by men who blocked their paths with quad bikes or lurked nearby.
Some dramatic images along those lines appear in the film. Yarmysh talks about how Tatarstan was supposed to be one of Navalny’s stops on his late summer swing through Russian regions ahead of elections.
Navalny was lobbying for “Smart Voting.” He argued that if he and people like him couldn't run in elections in Russia, the next best thing was to simply vote for a candidate who is not from the same party as President Vladimir Putin, United Russia.
Navalny famously called it “the party of crooks and thieves” and wanted to chip away at its monopoly on power however possible. He believes “Smart Voting” can eventually dislodge it from power.
In the documentary from Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, Navalny’s team keeps up his stylistic pace with drone video of what it identifies as the palatial homes of the regional president and his family, punctuated with video of the vast collection of fancy watches from Patek Phillipe to Breguet worn by leader Rustam Minnikhanov.
Even if you don’t understand Russian, it is compelling TV, Zafesova said.
“Navalny’s investigations have evolved over the years from merely facts and analysis on his blog to full-scale movies. He invented a whole new way to oppose power, a mix of media and politics which is very important in a censored media environment like Russia and fills the void of free media as well as free debate and an independent judicial system. Navalny’s videos are funny, clever, precise and shocking, not just angry denunciations of the wrongdoings of government," Zafesova said.
Yarmysh and Alburov point out that Tatarstan has been run by the “same clan” for 30 years, longer than (Belarussian President Alexander) Lukashenko and Putin. Navalny’s team alleges the leaders of Tatarstan have skimmed off oil revenues that should have gone into regional coffers.
Hauntingly, the final videos Navalny shot before he was poisoned were released last week. They show him in Novosibirsk and then Tomsk, where he was apparently attacked.
He is seen moving through town talking to other anti-corruption campaigners and waiving utility bills of companies he says are controlled by local leaders fiefdom-style.
The last video is called “Tomsk. Hostage of the Mafia of Deputies.” In closing, Navalny says: “This is a video about Tomsk, but something similar will be happening in your city. Your vote is also needed for 'Smart Voting.' Normal life is closer than we think.”