Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, 44, miraculously survived an assassination attempt in August. He was visiting supporters and attempting to document corrupt politicians in Siberia when the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) tried to kill him, reports CNN.
After coming out of a coma, he made a defiant return to Russia on January 17, 2021, from a German hospital, a “symbolic act of defiance,” reported NBC. Truly, he was ready to put his life on the line for the cause of bringing freedom to his country.
Immediately, Navalny was arrested at the airport, given a mockery of a trial, and taken to Moscow’s notorious detention facility. The pretext for his arrest: he had failed to report for probation while recovering in Germany. It was the last day before the probation expired.
Jailing One Person to Intimidate Millions
Alexei Navalny said the proceedings were an attempt to “jail one person to intimidate millions.” In a video, he called on supporters to take to the streets in protest of United Russia, which he calls an “insatiable toad.”
“What is that toad sitting on a pipeline afraid of?” he asked. “What are those thieves hiding in a bunker afraid of most? You know it all yourselves – of people taking to the streets. It’s a political factor that can’t be ignored, it’s the main one, the most important one, it is the essence of politics.”
The opposition leader said, more than anything, the corrupt people in control of the system were afraid of one thing: people realizing their collective strength.
“They are afraid,” he said in a video from a courtroom outside Moscow. “They are afraid of you…afraid of those people who can stop staying silent and realize their own strength. I call on you to stop being silent, resist and take to the street. There are so many of us.”
Rather than fearing arrest, he urged people to believe they can achieve change.
“Nobody will protect us but ourselves,” he said. “But we are so many that if we want to achieve something, we will achieve it.”
Facing Possible Death Twice
After a further trial, he would likely be jailed for years under a regime that the U.S. government, the E.U., and the U.K. governments say tried to kill him with Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent developed in the 70s.
In December 2020, Navalny tricked the secret agent who poisoned him into admitting how they had done it.
“We applied a solution so that no traces could be found,” said the agent on a recorded phone call.
Now, Navalny is likely nearing death after going on a hunger strike for over 21 days in jail. The strike was in protest of being unable to receive trustworthy medical care for an undiagnosed respiratory illness, back pain, side effects from the poisoning, and declining health.
In response to the news, the federal penitentiary service moved Navalny to a hospital specializing in treating tuberculosis patients, saying his health is “satisfactory.”
“With the patient’s consent, he was prescribed vitamin therapy,” read a statement.
Now, if Navalny dies, “the blame will like unequivocally with the Kremlin” after a botched nerve-agent attack, report CNN.
In celebration of the incredibly brave Alexei Navalny, we share quotes to honor his efforts to expose corruption, a “simulated democracy,” and fight for freedom.
Today, his Twitter account calls for protests from the Russian people, considered illegal by the government.
‘Putin’s Palace’ Near Gelendzhik
Taking to YouTube and his personal blog, Navalny sidestepped the Kremlin’s efforts to control all media, generating millions of views.
Navalny founded the Anti-Corruption Foundation in 2011, a Russian non-profit organization working to expose corruption among Russia’s high-ranking officials.
In 2017, he released a YouTube video highlighting the extreme wealth of Putin’s ally, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. After receiving millions of views, hackers posted the video to government websites, which soon took them down.
Recently, when Navalny returned to Russia from the German hospital, he released the video called “Putin’s Palace,” alleging that Putin and his favored oligarchs have hoarded immense wealth “with the fruits of corruption.” Putin denies owning a palace, but the video uses drone footage to show a “Winter Palace” rivaling any Tsar’s dwelling.
“We present to you the most secretive place in Russia, Putin’s palace near Gelendzhik,” said Navalny. “Vladimir Putin imagines himself as an Emperor of Russia and behaves accordingly.”
A few days after posting the video, authorities sentenced Navalny to two years and eight months in prison, sparking ongoing protests in Russia. Today, the video alleging vast corruption and greed remains on YouTube. People risked their lives, taking to the water to get the images you see below.
More than exposing corruption at the top, Navalny wanted to understand the psychology of ordinary people who are part of the larger problem.
“I want to understand how an ordinary Soviet officer is crazy mad on money and luxury, not just a madman, but literally ready-made [destroys] the country and [kills] for the sake of their chests of gold,” he said.
See the video below:
Believing in Change
Navalny has long called out Putin’s attempts to portray elections as democratic and criticized the regime.
“There is a rule of thieves and it is inefficient,” he said. “But it holds on because we just shrug our shoulders and believe that nothing can be change,” he told supporters. “I believe that we can bring change.”
Alexei Navalny and Smart Voting
In 2018, Navalny ran for President.
“I am better than Putin because I want to free you, and save your money,” Navalny said in a campaign video.
In response, the regime disqualified Navalny based on previous trumped-up embezzlement charges, reported Vox.
About the same time that he was poisoned in Siberia, Navalny led a campaign called “Smart Voting.” He urged supporters to vote tactically for one of the “dummy candidates” on the ballot, even if they found them distasteful. In so doing, they could impact the rule of the United Russia party.
As a result of his campaign, the pro-Kremlin United Russia party lost its majorities on the city councils in two cities. The news was seen as a blow to Putin’s power, even as small as it was, which could possibly snowball over time.
“This was an experiment, and in those cities and regions where it was implemented for the first time, it worked very very well,” Navalny said.
At the same time, Putin’s favorability ratings were slipping in the polls due to falling wages and the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, even as Alexei Navalny is near death, the movement he inspired is stronger than ever. Democracy requires the work and participation of everyone to ensure its ongoing survival.
See more about how Alexei Navalny became Putin’s greatest threat below from Vox: