Thursday

26th May 2022

Interview

EU top diplomat should 'ask about Putin's palace'

  • Zhanna Nemstova lives and works in the EU (Photo: nojin)

EU foreign relations chief Josep Borrell should needle Russia about president Vladimir Putin's private palace when he is in Moscow next week, Zhanna Nemstova, a Russian activist, has told EUobserver.

"It's worth asking all those whom he [Borrell] will meet about Putin's palace," she said.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Nemstova at last Saturday's protest in Nizhny Novgorod (Photo: Zhanna Nemtsova)

"He [Borrell] should ask who owns the palace. Certainly, he should speak about it in his conversations with [Russian] journalists. Probably, he'll get some answers from the Russian authorities that will be worth making public," she added.

Nemstova is the daughter of Boris Nemstov, a Russian opposition leader who was shot dead in 2015.

Borrell is going to Moscow on a three-day trip on 4 February to discuss "strategic" issues, such as Russia's war in Ukraine and Iran nuclear arms.

He is also going to urge Russia to free Alexei Navalny, an opposition leader whom it poisoned and jailed, and who recently published a documentary showing that Putin had built himself an opulent mansion worth $1bn (€800mn) on the Black Sea coast.

"I see nothing wrong with Josep Borrell visiting Moscow next week, so long as his message to the Russian authorities is clear and it's not just lip service [to EU values]," Nemstova said.

"He [Borrell] should warn Russian authorities of consequences if they continue to behave this way," she said.

And if need be, the EU ought to impose "individual sanctions" on oligarchs who financed Putin's palaces and his regime more broadly speaking, Nemstova also said, mentioning two Russian tycoons - Roman Abramovich and Alisher Usmanov - who were recently named in a draft blacklist by Navalny's associates.

Asked if EU diplomats listened to Russian dissidents like her, she said: "I believe they do. But we'll see what happens".

Nemstova, 36, lives in the Czech Republic and Germany, where she works as a freelance journalist and runs a pro-democracy NGO called the Boris Nemstov Foundation.

But she was in her home town of Nizhny Novgorod, east of Moscow, last Saturday, when tens of thousands of people took part in pro-Navalny protests across Russia.

"It was snowy, but not really cold for a Russian winter - minus 5 or 6 degrees below zero [Celsius]," Nemstova recalled.

"It was the biggest demonstration in the modern history of my city ... There were a lot of students and people under the age of 40," she said, amid estimates that between 5,000 and 10,000 people joined the Nizhny-Novgorod rally.

Asked if she felt safe in Russia, she told EUobserver: "Frankly, I don't feel unsafe".

"The scariest part for me and, I believe, for many of my countrymen, is actually to get out of your apartment and join protesters ... Once you're there, it's not scary anymore. You're inspired by many incredible people," Nemstova said.

More demonstrations were expected this weekend after a judge confirmed Navalny's 30-day detention on Thursday (28 January) and police raided the homes of his associates.

He is being held at the Matrosskaya Tishina prison, a stone's throw from 17 Spiridonovka Street in Moscow, where Borrell is to meet Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on 5 February.

Navalny risks more than 13 years in prison on bogus charges.

And Putin has denied owning the palace.

Putin's embarrassment

But Navalny's film has been viewed more than 100 million times on YouTube, indicating that he was a force to be reckoned with.

"Putin has lost a lot of his legitimacy and his rate of approval is going down, especially among young people," Nemstova said.

Putin's approval rating was just 40 percent in a recent survey by independent Russian pollster Levada, compared to 87 percent in 2014, she noted.

It was 20 percent among young people.

"Of course, it might take years before we see any real political change," Nemstova said.

"[But] my gut instinct says to me that we're witnessing the birth of a new national political moment against the ruling regime," she said.

Interview

Belarus threatens to kill two UK dissidents

British citizenship and international awards are not enough to make Belarusian dissident Natalia Kaliada feel safe after a high-profile death threat.

Russia humiliates Borrell in Moscow

Russia expelled European diplomats and harangued the EU on human rights, while Borrell went off-script on Cuba in Moscow on Friday.

Opinion

An 'aide-mémoire' for the Moscow visit

Giving up the Nord Stream 2 project now would be the right message, demonstrating that EU member states are united in condemning violations of international laws and human rights by the Kremlin, writes the Polish permanent representative to the EU.

Opinion

When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin

Neither Reagan nor Gorbachev achieved their goal at the famous Reykjavik summit of 1986. Despite that fact there are lessons that current leaders — particularly Vladimir Putin — could adopt from these two iconic leaders.

Opinion

Orbán's overtures to Moscow are distasteful and detrimental

Some Western European politicians are reviving the chimera of a negotiated settlement. None of this makes the current, half-hearted approach towards sanctioning Russia look better — nor does it shed any favourable light on the cravenness of Hungary's current government.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us