Russia: Poison, Prison, and Politics


The Power Vertical

Image of Russian politicians Alexei Navalny and Vladimir Putin. Both politicians are at tension with each other as Putin sees Navalny’s actions over the past decade as a threat.

Alexei Anatolievich Navalny, born June 4, 1976 is a Russian opposition leader, lawyer, and anti-corruption activist. People are unsure whether he will be the next Nelson Mandela of Russia in ten years or if he will be dead in two years. Currently he is buried deep in the bowels in a Russian federal penitentiary facility in the outskirts of Moscow.

Navalny is Russian, but his father is from Belarus (family was displaced by the Chernobyl accident). Even though he grew up Russian he spent summers with his Ukrainian grandparents and is fluent in the language. Navalny was a very bright student, he studied law and finance, and he was awarded a scholarship in Yale. Navalny eventually moved to Moscow and practiced law. Navalny became disenfranchised with the Russian legal and political system in 2000 when he witnessed Vladimir Putin pass a new law that changed the electoral rules for Russian parliament (Duma). Navalny then joined an opposition party named Yabloko (Russian United Democratic Party). He became an increasingly vocal opponent to Putin.

Navalny ran for small political offices and ultimately became very popular with the Youth Social Movement. Navalny was very adept at using Social Media despite being part of a small party. He became frustrated with lack of progress by the opposition party and quit Yabloko in 2007. Navalny led grassroots protests and gained popularity as an underdog champion of the people. The first time he got in trouble with the law he was placed in prison for fifteen days. In an interview with echo of Moscow radio station, the editor-in-chief, Alexei Venediktov said the arrest of Navalny was “a political mistake: jailing Navalny transforms him from an online leader into an offline ones.” It would have been better if Russia had ignored Navalny but instead they turned him into a hero.

In 2012, Navalny began to lead really big rally’s against the incumbent Government and Putin with tens of thousands of supporters. According to an article by RT News, Navalny said at the time of the protest “I see enough people to take the Kremlin right now.” This started to register to Putin that he could be a real threat.

In 2013, Navalny joined a new political party called the People’s Alliance and was elected its leader. In 2014 the Government tried to block the party using small technical reasons from entering candidates into elections. As a result, the party had to change its name to the “Progress Party”.

In 2013, Navalny decided to run for mayor of Moscow and one of his prime opponents approached Putin to change the election rules. Putin granted his request. This threw up many new requirements for Navalny to run for office. Right after Navwlny successfully ran for qualifications to run for office, he was sentenced to a 5 year prison term for embezzlement and fraud charges that were declared in 2012.

Navalny successfully defended himself and won 27 percent of the vote for Mayor, but not enough to hold office. After that Navalny denounced the notes but the Supreme Court of Russia sided with his opponent.

In 2016, Navalny announced his entry into the 2018 Presidential race. This is when he definitely caught Putin’s radar. Many legal accusations swirled around Navalny. In 2017, attackers sprayed green dye on him outside of his office. He lost 80 percent of his sight in his right eye. Navalny accused allies of Putin for orchestrating the attack. According to a report by the Human Rights Watch, (Non-Governmental Organization based out of New York that studies Human Rights) “the pattern of harassment and intimidation against Navalny’s campaign is undeniable.” Government kept arresting Navalny for small charges, preventing him from running for President.

In August 2020, Navalny fell ill during a flight to Moscow and the plane had to make an emergency landing. Video footage from crew members showed Navalny screaming loudly in pain. When they landed at an emergency hospital he fell into a coma. It was believed Navalny had been poisoned by something placed into the tea he had drank at the airport prior to the flight. When Navalny awoke from the coma, Putin allowed him to flee to Germany but didn’t want him to stay in Russia. Navalny was treated in Berlin where the doctors confirmed he had been poisoned with a novichok nerve agent that had been used by Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) agents against Putin’s other enemies.

In 2021, Navalny published a video on Youtube indicating Putin had built a private estate for $1.4 Billion. The video showed drone footage of the estate and a detailed floor plan of the palace. The video was viewed 20 million times on the first day and 92 million times by the end of the week. Putin denied ownership of the palace.

Despite all of this, Navalny voluntarily returned to Russia in 2021 and was arrested upon landing. He’s been placed into a penitentiary facility and spends many of his days in isolation. Navalny has been accused of many things but if he survives he could emerge as Russia’s next leader, or he may die in prison.