Death in the dark of dangerous Russia

Bosko Jaksic / Photo: MIA

If they decide to kill me, it means that we are incredibly strong, said Alexei Navalny in the Oscar-winning documentary.

When he decided to return to Russia on January 17, 2021, Alexei Navalny bravely, some say fatalistically, chose not to live in exile. He died in the darkness of dangerous Russia.

Charismatic, controversial and uniquely determined, well versed in law and finance, Navalny and his team exposed the corruption of the political elite and the president himself. As someone with a gift for mobilizing people, he was marked as the most dangerous critic of the despotic regime, and in 2021 his Anti-Corruption Foundation was declared an "extremist organization" and closed down.

He survived an attempt to be poisoned with a nerve agent in Omsk, Siberia, after which, under pressure from the world, he was given five months of medical treatment in Germany. Convinced that his mission of spreading democracy and freedom makes sense only in the homeland, he knew that he would be arrested immediately, but he consciously took the risk.

He was confident that he would continue the fight even from behind the bars of one of the harshest prisons in the country, the "Polar Wolf" casemate in the city of Harp, in a remote Russian land bound by ice, above the Arctic Circle, in which he was thrown into solitary confinement 27 times, although doctors claim that severe punishment directly affects health, and the law stipulates that no one can be isolated for more than two weeks.

– On February 16, 2024, in Correctional Colony No. 3, convict Navalni A. A. after a walk, he felt sick and almost immediately lost consciousness, after which he was unsuccessfully resuscitated, and the cause of death is being investigated - said the office of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia for the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District, where Navalny was recently transferred to served a 19-year prison sentence on charges of extremism and fraud.
Died suddenly? In the presence of the authorities. Who can trust the regime of the former Kagebeov, who first became president in 2000, and in March is going to new elections, which will allow him to rule unhindered until 2036, and perhaps for life?

Navalny knew well that Vladimir Putin does not forgive anyone, but he decided to spoil his celebration from prison. "I'm your Santa Claus, but I'm a special Santa Claus, so only those who have behaved badly will get presents," he joked through the lawyer.

In June, the oppositionist and nationalist who dreamed of making Russia a "normal country" launched an online campaign to convince citizens to be "against the candidates we hate: candidate Putin and candidate War".
The Kremlin made sure that his vision never became a reality. For more than two decades, Putin has been methodically working to eliminate what little opposition there is to his authoritarian rule. It effectively eliminates all potential challenges. Dozens of mysterious throws from hotel balconies or hospital windows, unexplained deaths of critics, confirm that the punishment for resistance is not only prison – but also death.

The West without much hesitation describes Navalny's death as a murder behind the state and the Great Vlad, which the most famous Russian opposition figure has never mentioned by name.

Protests took place across Europe. From Berlin, Paris and Amsterdam to Vilnius, from London and Barcelona to Rome and Lisbon, thousands of protesters, many of them Russian émigrés, chanted anti-Putin slogans and demanded accountability. "The motherland kills," read the poster at the demonstration in front of the Russian Embassy in Belgrade.

Navalny's wife, Yulia, made an unscheduled address at the security conference in Munich, where many world leaders gathered. "I want Putin and everyone around Putin, Putin's friends, his government, to know that they will bear responsibility for what they did to our country, to my family and to my husband. That day will come soon."
US President Joe Biden has no doubt that Navalny's death was "a consequence of something Putin and his thugs did." Biden warned the Russian president in June 2021 of "consequences" if Navalny died in prison, but did not specify what actions he planned to take.

- It is clear that Putin killed him - said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. "Putin tried and failed to kill Navalny quickly and secretly, and now in prison he killed him slowly and publicly," said former world chess champion and dissident Garry Kasparov.

They got annoyed in Moscow. The ruling United Russia party, 30 minutes after the news of the death, instructed officials to strictly adhere to the official interpretation, and even better to refrain from any comments.
The spokeswoman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Maria Zakharova spoke instead: "The reaction of NATO leaders to the death of Navalny in the form of direct accusations against Moscow is self-revealing. The forensic examination is ongoing, but the conclusions from the West are already ready."

Duma President Vyacheslav Volodin went a step further: "Who does Navalny's death benefit today?" It suits those who imposed more than 19.000 sanctions on Russia in order to tear apart its economy and those who are losing the war in Ukraine. All of them are responsible for the death of Navalny, from the Secretary General of NATO and the leadership of the USA, to Scholz, Sunak and Zelensky."

Police removed flowers and candles that activists placed around Moscow, St. Petersburg or Novosibirsk. More than a hundred people were arrested. It has been confirmed that Putin fears the resistance of his own people the most, but it seems that those who believed that Navalny's fame was his best protection were wrong.

At the end of the documentary for which Daniel Roer won an Oscar, Navalny answers the question of what the message would be to the Russian people if he were accidentally killed. "You are not allowed to back down." If they decide to kill me, that means we are incredibly strong. The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to remain silent. Don't be inactive."

When his final sentence was handed down, Navalny said he saw it as "a life sentence that will be measured by the length of my life and the length of the regime's life". The regime tried to live longer. Navalny tried his best not to let his message die. Yulia Navalnaya announced that she is standing at the head of the fight against Putin to build a "free, peaceful, happy Russia, the beautiful Russia of the future that my husband dreamed of so much."

(The author is a journalist)


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