This is how The Wall Street Journal described Alexei Navalny back in 2012 near the beginning of his prominence in Russia as a political activist. Navalny has been an outspoken critic of political and governmental corruption as well as a critic of President Vladimir Putin himself, calling United Russia, Russia’s ruling party, a “party of crooks and thieves.” He has quickly become the prominent face of Russian opposition to Putin, and with this has led multiple nationwide protests. He has gained most of his followers through his social media presence, with over two million subscribers to his YouTube channel and even more than that following him on Twitter, not to mention his blog that has been translated into English. Along with all of this, he ran in the Moscow mayoral election supported by the People’s Freedom Party, coming in second with a large portion of the votes. With a presence like that, it makes sense that Putin would consider Navalny a threat.
Opposition from the Kremlin
Navalny’s journey has been far from smooth sailing, as seen from events in 2012 to 2014 where he was arrested multiple times. Seven of these arrests were politically motivated under the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and were ruled as such, which seemed to only provoke anger in the Kremlin. Russia’s Investigative Committee has charged Navalny with both a travel ban and house arrest at different points to hinder his involvement with protests in different locations across Russia, which Navalny discusses thoroughly in his blog. None of this has diminished Navalny’s desire to tear down the establishment, as seen in his candidacy in the 2018 presidential election. However, shortly after announcing his participation, authorities banned him from running over a supposed conviction of embezzlement which Navalny denies ever happened. He has since proclaimed that his legal troubles are Kremlin reprisals for his criticism.
Navalny’s criticism recently landed him once again in jail for a 30-day sentence for organizing another unauthorized protest. He was one of over a thousand protestors tarrested July 27 in a police crackdown. What made this different from other arrests is the fact that Navalny appeared to have a mysterious illness that required him to be hospitalized over the weekend. Supporters of Navalny quickly jumped to the conclusion that this was an obvious attack on his life and suspected he was poisoned. Russian medical officials have proclaimed that he was not poisoned, but that he suffered from an acute allergic reaction that caused severe swelling of the face and redness of the skin. Navalny’s team was quick to point out that he has never had allergies before. His personal doctor, Anastasia Vasilyeva, posted on Facebook that she was skeptical about the results from the hospital and that his symptoms suggested that he could have been exposed to a toxin. For the moment, it is impossible to be certain that this wasn’t a deliberate attack on his life. And if this was orchestrated by the Kremlin, what does this say about anyone who dares oppose Putin?
Al Jazeera. “Russia’s Alexei Navalny Discharged from Hospital: Doctor.” Russia News | Al Jazeera. July 29, 2019. Accessed August 02, 2019. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/07/russia-alexei-navalny-exposed-toxic-agent-doctor-190729083823874.html.
“Alexei Navalny.” Wikipedia. July 30, 2019. Accessed August 02, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexei_Navalny#cite_note-3.
“Alexei Navalny: Russia’s Vociferous Putin Critic.” BBC News. July 30, 2019. Accessed August 02, 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-16057045.
Kaminski, Matthew. “The Man Vladimir Putin Fears Most.” WSJ. March 03, 2012. Accessed August 02, 2019. https://web.archive.org/web/20150102042232/http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970203986604577257321601811092.
Kantchev, Georgi. “Russian Activist Navalny Wasn’t Poisoned, Officials Say.” The Wall Street Journal. July 31, 2019. Accessed August 02, 2019. https://www.wsj.com/articles/russian-activist-navalny-wasnt-poisoned-say-officials-11564584832.
“Navalny_en.” LiveJournal. December 07, 2020. Accessed August 02, 2019. https://navalny-en.livejournal.com/.
Roth, Andrew. “Alexei Navalny: Arrests in Russia Politically Motivated, ECHR Rules.” The Guardian. November 15, 2018. Accessed August 02, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/15/alexei-navalny-arrests-russia-politically-motivated-echr.