In Message From Prison, Navalny Says Corruption At Root Of Global Problems

Artwork depicts a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin on a layer of money.  

Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexsei Navalny called on the West to take action against global corruption, describing it in an open letter published in Western newspapers as being the root cause of many of the world’s big problems.

Navalny issued the appeal on August 19, on the one-year anniversary of his poisoning in Siberia with a nerve agent that he blames on the Kremlin.

The anti-corruption campaigner was jailed in January upon returning to Moscow from Germany where he had received life-saving treatment. The Kremlin denies poisoning Navalny, and has maintained his prison sentence is not political.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has cracked down on Navalny’s political organizations and Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), which for years has been a thorn in the side of the Kremlin for exposing alleged corruption among political and business elites.

In his letter, Navalny wrote that while Western leaders try to solve global challenges — wars, poverty, migration, the climate crisis, and weapons of mass destruction – corruption rarely fits at the top of agenda, even though it is behind many of the world’s main crises.

“Religious extremists of all stripes find it easier to conduct propaganda when their opponents are driving Rolls-Royces through the streets of penniless countries. Migration crises are caused by poverty, and poverty is almost always caused by corruption,” Navalny wrote, citing other examples for war, the climate crisis, and terrorism.

Navalny said corruption has "long ceased to be merely an internal problem" of authoritarian countries and is now "one of the main causes of the global challenges that face the West."

He called on Western countries to challenge authoritarian leaders, including his foe Putin, on corruption through numerous avenues and international summits, saying it would make things “very tricky, very awkward” for corrupt leaders and their cronies.

He also said that corruption in authoritarian countries can thrive because of the West’s financial infrastructure, with much of the stolen wealth being held abroad.

The Kremlin critic said Western leaders should show “determination and political will” to fight corruption as he outlined five steps that are “entirely realistic.”

They include creating a special category of “countries that encourage corruption” and the establishment of an international body, making it easier to take collective action against graft.

He also called for “enforced transparency” of all dealings between Western companies that deal with partners from corrupt countries.

“You work for a state-owned company in a country at high risk of corruption and want to buy a villa on the French Riviera? Fine, go ahead, but you should know that all the information about the deal will be publicly available. You want to have dealings with an official in Minsk or the aunt of a Russian governor? No problem, but you will have to publish the entire paper trail of the transaction,” he wrote.

Navalny also called for personal sanctions to be imposed on oligarchs surrounding Putin, who he described as “the role model for all the world’s corrupt officials and businessmen.”

“Putin’s oligarchs, those heading ‘state-owned’ companies and companies that are formally private but whose prosperity is linked to Putin’s group, are not businessmen but leaders of organized crime groups,” he said.

The letter was published in The Guardian, Le Monde and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

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