Russia will change only if the country is led by someone who respects Democracy and the Rule of Law. Navalny is not that person.

As ever greater attention is turned to Putin’s political opponent, Alexei Navalny, so too is unwarranted praise for the man. Hailed as Russia’s best chance for change and the only real democratic opposition to Putin, the ugly truth about Navalny falls deeper into the abyss, obscuring reality further. I fear that Western praise and support for a man who can differentiate himself from Putin only on matters of corruption can help usher in an era of continued instability for Eastern Europe.

Navalny has participated in the annual Russian March, a parade uniting Russian nationalists.

Like Putin, Navalny believes “Ukrainians and Russians are one people”. He said that “Russia should do everything to integrate Ukraine and Belarus more closely, because we are in fact, the same people.”

He backed the annexation of Crimea, and is opposed to the unilateral return of the peninsula to Ukraine.

He openly opposes arming Ukraine so the country may defend itself against Russia’s unjust and unlawful war.

He supported the Transnistrian “separatists” in Moldova and backed Russian invasion of Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia which resulted in de facto Russian occupation of sovereign Georgian territory.

He referred to Georgians (using a Russian ethnic slur) as “rodents”, called for Russia to blockade Georgia entirely, and to shoot down Georgian planes over Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He said Georgians should “all be expelled from Russia” and praised Putin for making Georgians disappear from Russian towns.

More recently, he declared that Uzbeks are “ignorant” and that “nobody in Uzbekistan knows who Pushkin is”.

He regularly appeals directly to some of the most fundamentalist values of ethnic Russians which are a danger to non-ethnic Russians in Russia and to all of Russia’s neighbours.

A man who endorses unjust & unlawful wars, gross violations of sovereignty & territorial integrity, is a xenophobic ethnonationalist, and will ride the spoils of violations of the Rule of Law will most certainly not bring democracy or the rule of law to Russia.

Being anti-corruption does not make him pro-democracy. He is a dangerous man who does not deserve western praise or support simply because he opposes Putin on domestic matters of corruption.

As I’ve said countless times before, true change can take place in Russia only if the opposition is led by a person with integrity, who respects Russia’s neighbours, and champions democracy and the rule of law. Alexei Navalny is not that person.