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What Will Russia Look Like Without Putin?

Russia’s current condition — militarized, isolated, corrupt, dominated by the security services and hemorrhaging talent as hundreds of thousands flee abroad to escape service in a horrific war — is bleak.

In hopes of an end to this grim reality, some wait expectantly for Vladimir Putin to leave office. To change the country, however, it is not enough for Mr. Putin to die or step down. Russia’s future leaders must dismantle and transform the structures over which he has presided for more than two decades. The challenge, to say the least, is daunting. But a group of politicians is devising a plan to meet it.

Composed of well-known opposition figures as well as younger representatives from local and regional governments, the First Congress of People’s Deputies of Russia met in Poland in early November. The location, Jablonna Palace outside Warsaw, was symbolic: It was the site of early negotiations in the round-table talks that led to the end of Communist rule in Poland. There, over three days of intense debate, participants laid out proposals for rebuilding their country. Taken together, they amount to a serious effort to imagine Russia without Mr. Putin.

The first and most pressing priority, of course, is the invasion of Ukraine. Everyone at the congress opposes the war, which they assume will be lost or lead to nuclear disaster. To deal with the consequences and to prevent a repeat tragedy, they propose an “act on peace” that would demobilize the army and end the occupation of Ukrainian territory, including Crimea; create a joint group for the investigation of war crimes; pay reparations for damaged infrastructure and the families of the dead; and reject future “wars of conquest.” In addition to offering a deterrent to future expansionism, this wide-ranging pledge would provide an essential reckoning with Russia’s history of imperialist invasion.

The officials responsible for the devastation will need to be rooted out, too — something that never happened after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The congress would bar from working in state and educational institutions those who belonged to “criminal” organizations — such as the Federal Security Services or state television channels — or publicly supported the war, as well as restricting their voting rights. It would also create a “de-Putinization” commission to consider the rehabilitation of certain groups, including those who publicly recant and did not commit especially serious crimes, and open the archives of the security services.

Read entire article at New York Times