Slovakia Is at a Dangerous Moment

“Fico was shot”. The message arrived in one of my group chats shortly after 3 p.m. on Wednesday. I checked the news and forwarded what I could find out to my friends and family. Information was limited, and headlines like “Robert Fico Was Shot After the Government Meeting in Handlova” seemed absurdly matter-of-fact.

Yes, Mr. Fico, Slovakia’s prime minister, has been a controversial figure. But could he really have been shot multiple times on a weekday afternoon in May? On Friday, he remained hospitalized in serious but stable condition after undergoing surgery.

Slovakian politics are deeply polarized in ways that have tipped into rhetorical and even physical violence.…  Seguir leyendo »

Robert Fico at a press conference with Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orbán, on 16 January. Photograph: Dénes Erdős/AP

Shortly after the shooting of Robert Fico, I received a phone call from my sister. She was extremely upset – not just about the shocking attack, but also about an incident on the bus on the way home from work in the moments after the news had broken. Two elderly fellow passengers reacted to the attempted assassination by blaming liberals and progressives in general, and in particular Michal Šimečka, an opposition politician and former vice-president of the European parliament. One passenger called for the death penalty to be reinstated and order to be restored.

At that point, the circumstances of the shooting were entirely unclear, information was partial, and it was too early to condemn or point the finger at anyone.…  Seguir leyendo »

Robert Fico, junto a un grupo de seguidores minutos antes de ser acribillado. Radovan Stoklasa. Reuters

La polarización en Eslovaquia, de la que se ha aprovechado exitosamente el reelecto y acribillado primer ministro, Robert Fico, ha entrado en una deriva de consecuencias magnicidas. Tomen nota, políticos polarizadores.

Durante años, el populista y controvertido Fico ha acusado a los medios de propagar noticias falsas contra él. Unos medios "llenos de ira" que él se ha propuesto desmantelar a toda costa. Fico también ha arremetido contra la Fiscalía eslovaca.

¿Les suena esta narrativa a los lectores españoles?

Este miércoles, un poeta de 71 años le disparó cinco tiros a quemarropa a Fico durante una visita a Handlová. Fico se debatió entre la vida y la muerte durante muchas horas en un quirófano de Banska Bystrica, la capital regional.…  Seguir leyendo »

Slovakia’s prime minister, Robert Fico, left, with the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, following a meeting in Budapest, Hungary, 16 January 2024. Photograph: Szilárd Koszticsák/EPA

A few years after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993, known as the “velvet divorce”, the newly independent Slovakian state to the south was already a cause of concern. The US secretary of state at the time, Madeleine Albright, called it “the black hole” of Europe.

Eventually, in 2004 Slovakia joined the EU and Nato. The assumption then in the west was that the country, finally, had a settled identity and a settled set of alliances.

Then came Robert Fico, a prototype populist. He was an early embracer of identity politics: the good men and women of toil in the small towns and villages versus the metropolitan elite in Bratislava, the capital, with their imported ideas.…  Seguir leyendo »

Alexéi Navalni no murió en vano

El 17 de enero de 2021, cuando el líder de la oposición rusa Alexéi Navalni abordó un avión hacia Moscú desde Berlín —donde lo habían atendido después de que fuera envenenado en Rusia con el agente nervioso novichock—, afirmó estar contento por volver a casa; pero conocía los riesgos que ello implicaba: una larga sentencia en prisión, la tortura... e incluso la muerte.

Navalni, que murió el 16 de febrero en una colonia penal en el Ártico, enfrentaba el dilema con que deben lidiar todos los disidentes políticos: vivir en el exilio hasta desvanecerse en la oscuridad, o enfrentar a un régimen opresivo y arriesgarse a convertirse en mártires.…  Seguir leyendo »

Around a year ago I received a letter from my alma mater: the Soviet gulag, where I spent nine years after being convicted of anti-Soviet activity, high treason and espionage, and from which I graduated in 1986. The letter was sent by Alexei Navalny from a shtrafnoy izolyator, or “shizo” for short, the most extreme type of punishment cell in the gulag. He told me he was reading my book, “Fear No Evil”, and was surprised by the similarity of our experiences.

In my nine years in prison I spent 405 days in shizo, a kind of torture by cold and hunger.…  Seguir leyendo »

People lay flowers for Alexei Navalny in St Petersburg, Russia, 17 February 2024. Photograph: Anatoly Maltsev/EPA

Alexei Navalny was one of the first to come out in support of Pussy Riot after our arrest in 2012. His birthday congratulations telegram arrived at my prison faster than anyone else’s. Laughing at enemies, loving life, he was full of vitality. On 16 February, he was killed in the Polar Wolf penal colony north of the Arctic Circle.

The loudest, clearest and brightest voice against Vladimir Putin’s regime has been murdered, despicably, out of sight. Before his murder, he was tortured for three years; a third of this time was spent in solitary confinement without proper food and clothing. Navalny was killed a month before the so-called “elections”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Alexéi Navalni, en Moscú en 2017. Oleg Nikishin (Epsilon/Getty)

Las noticias llegan lentamente al barracón de un campo penitenciario, y de la muerte de Alexéi Navalni solo me enteré ayer.

Cuesta transmitir mi conmoción. Cuesta ordenar tus ideas. El dolor y el horror resultan insoportables.

De todos modos no me quedaré callado. Diré lo que creo importante.

Yo no me planteo la pregunta de qué es lo que ha pasado con Navalni. No tengo ninguna duda de que lo han matado. Alexéi se ha pasado tres años bajo el control de las fuerzas de seguridad, que ya en 2020 le organizaron un atentado que fracasó. Hoy han llevado la operación hasta el final.…  Seguir leyendo »

“I know how easily people are killed in Russia”, Alexey Navalny told me over a decade ago as I interviewed him for a book I was writing. “But in the end, it’s a question of choice. You can keep silent, you can emigrate, or you can stay here and fight”, the Russian democracy activist said.

Navalny — the greatest opponent to Russian President Vladimir Putin in recent memory — paid a steep price for that decision to fight. He died in a prison north of the Arctic Circle, the Russian prison service said on Friday. He was 47. At the moment, we still don’t know the details of his death.…  Seguir leyendo »

Putin Didn’t Hate Navalny. He Envied Him.

It’s 2007, a warm, sunny spring day in Moscow. It’s my first rally, and I’m nervous. I’m 16, silly and shy, falling in love with courageous and loud people around me. I hear my quiet voice join others screaming, “Russia without Putin”. We lock our arms and together push the police out of the street. Russia could be free: It’s a new feeling for me. This is where I see Aleksei Navalny for the first time.

For the next 17 years, I watched my friend Aleksei rise from a Moscow blogger to a global moral and political figure, giving hope and inspiration to people around the world.…  Seguir leyendo »

La solitaria muerte de Alexéi Navalni

En 2013, cuando el crítico del Kremlin Alexéi Navalni se enfrentaba a un juicio por acusaciones falsas, recordé cómo mi bisabuelo, el líder soviético Nikita Jrushchov, comparaba a Rusia con un bol lleno de masa. «Si metes la mano hasta el fondo, cuando la sacas queda un pequeño agujero». Pero entonces, «ante tus ojos», la masa vuelve a su estado original: una mezcla «esponjosa e inflada». Más de una década después, la muerte de Navalni en una remota colonia penal del Ártico es prueba de lo poco que han cambiado las cosas.

La prisión en la que murió Navalni es particularmente brutal.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, his wife Yulia, opposition politician Lyubov Sobol and other demonstrators march in memory of murdered Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov in downtown Moscow on 29 February, 2020. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP)

Alexei Navalny was the leading opponent of Vladimir Putin inside Russia – even from behind bars and often in solitary confinement.

He made his name while still a free man by unmasking the nature of the regime through corruption exposés, protests, and by trying to be a ‘normal’ politician in a system dominated by one other man.

Navalny’s death provides another, potent demonstration of the system Putin has constructed: a murderous personalist autocracy that continues to spread destruction and misery in its ongoing war on Ukraine.

We may never know the full details leading up to Navalny’s death in the ‘Polar Wolf’ prison colony within the Arctic Circle on 16 February.…  Seguir leyendo »

Alexéi Navalni en una manifestación de apoyo a los prisioneros políticos en Moscú, el 29 de septiembre de 2019.Sefa Karacan (Anadolu Agency/ Getty Images)

Mi país y el de Alexéi Navalni ya no existe. Una Rusia que destruye a sus hijos de esta manera no puede ser une terre des hommes, una tierra de los hombres. Este Estado que se hace llamar Federación Rusa y trae la muerte y la calamidad sobre el mundo entero y su propia población directamente no debería existir.

En la Rusia actual, Alexéi Navalni iba a perder inevitablemente su vida. Una dictadura significa que el pueblo calla y se regocija con la palabra del líder. El régimen veía una amenaza contra sí mismo en este hombre al que quiso callar encarcelándolo durante más de 20 años.…  Seguir leyendo »

People used to ask Alexey Navalny why, knowing the risks, he chose to go back to Russia in 2021 after he was poisoned with a rare nerve agent originally developed in the Soviet Union and almost died. Rather than return to face almost certain imprisonment, he could have stayed abroad to lead the resistance to Putin from the West.

His answer was simple: “Russia is my country, Moscow is my city, and I miss them”. His death in an Arctic penal colony prison, announced by the Russian prison service on Friday and confirmed by Navalny’s spokesperson on Saturday, shows the sordid depths to which Putin has dragged that country.…  Seguir leyendo »

Demonstrators hold placards reading 'Killers' and 'Russia without Putin' during a rally in front of the Russian embassy in Warsaw on February 16 following the announcement that Alexey Navalny had died. (Photo by Sergei GAPON / AFP) (Photo by SERGEI GAPON/AFP via Getty Images) Sergei Gapon/AFP/Getty Images

The announcement from the Russian prison service that Alexey Navalny, the most prominent Russian opposition leader, had died in prison at 47, sent ripples throughout the world and reached me in California when I woke up Friday morning. As someone who grew up between Ukraine and Russia, I used to go back to both countries to visit family every year. When I heard that Navalny had died, I immediately recalled the time I met him during a trip to Moscow in 2012, when I was 29 and some of the biggest anti-Putin protests were rocking Russia.

A journalist friend had taken me to a party hosted by a popular liberal radio station, and we immediately beelined toward a tall, pale man in the center of the room.…  Seguir leyendo »

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, autor del catálogo monumental que coló ya para siempre en la memoria de Occidente el horror de los campos de Stalin, lo inicia con una anécdota tan fría como escalofriante: en los hielos perpetuos de Vorkutá un grupo de hombres ha encontrado un animal prehistórico congelado. Puede que se trate de un pez o de un tritón, pero los del hallazgo no son precisamente exploradores que alimenten pasiones ictiológicas. De hecho, es alimento lo que les falta, de manera que se aplican a romper el hielo a golpes, extraen la carne que lleva esperándolos ahí algunas decenas de miles de años y se la zampan a bocados.…  Seguir leyendo »

Photos of Alexei Navalny hang on a fence at a monument to victims of Soviet occupation in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Saturday. (Mindaugas Kulbis/AP)

Vladimir Putin killed my friend Alexei Navalny this week. There will be a time and place to discuss the politics and how the free world should respond. For now, I want to share a few memories.

The Alexei Navalny I knew was super smart. For me, the sign of a true intellectual is the courage to change your mind. We disagreed about some things he had said in the past, particularly about the Caucasus and Crimea. He listened, and it felt to me he was rethinking some of his earlier statements. But he also pushed back, challenging my commitment to “neoliberalism” in the 1990s.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza, left, and Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, right. (Natalia Kolesnikova; Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images)

In the long line of people who have been victims of Soviet and Russian dictators, Alexei Navalny was extraordinary. He dedicated himself to unmasking the cynical, corrupt nature of Vladimir Putin’s dictatorship. And he succeeded, revealing the truth to the world.

He was so dedicated to exposing the nature of Putin’s regime that he chose to return to Russia to force his would-be murderers to make their villainy public. In going back, he showed the people of Russia and the world that he was not afraid — and that neither should they be afraid to act.

In a letter he wrote to one of us from prison, Navalny stated that the “virus” of freedom will never be killed and that hundreds of thousands of people will continue to fight for freedom and against the war in Ukraine.…  Seguir leyendo »

A memorial to the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, St. Petersburg, Russia, February 2024. Stringer / Reuters

The announcement on Friday that the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has died in a remote Russian prison colony has left observers of the country in shock. For years, the most fearless critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the pervasive corruption of Putin’s inner circle, Navalny had been serving a draconian 19-year sentence for extremism. Indeed, it was highly unlikely that he would ever be released as long as Putin was in power. But apparently, even that was not enough. According to the Russian prison service, Navalny collapsed after a short walk in the prison yard and lost consciousness and died soon after.…  Seguir leyendo »

El expresidente del Gobierno, Luis Carrero Blanco, junto al dictador Francisco Franco.

Cuando vi la serie de Movistar+ El día de mañana, sobre una buena novela de Ignacio Martínez de Pisón, no me sorprendió encontrarme con frases y detalles que no salían en el libro, pero sí con su significado.

Por ejemplo, cuando los protagonistas hablan, en los años 60, de la futura caída de la dictadura, un personaje femenino se muestra sin esperanza y dice que todo cambiará para que no cambie nada, la conocida teoría lampedusiana. Ideas que no se expresan en la novela, pero que son bien conocidas en la impugnación al sistema democrático actual y la Constitución que hace la izquierda alternativa.…  Seguir leyendo »