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The Curious Case of Alexei Navalny

Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times


I N T E R N A T I O N A L – R U S S I A


Takrim Hossain


Thousands of protesters on the streets and riot police beating people with batons — this has lately become a regular scenario of Russia. The man behind all these organised protests, Alexei Navalny, is behind the bars while Russia prepares to protest for the third week, caring little for the strict Covid-19 restrictions and the cold Russian winter. No matter how much the Kremlin & Vladimir Putin try to laugh these protests off, Alexei Navalny has indeed successfully organised some of the biggest protests Russia’s had in a long time. 

Now more enraged than ever, the protesters are defying the protest ban and raising their voices against Navalny’s jail sentence as well as the whole system. These protests are definitely a threat to Putin and his regime because the parliamentary elections are due to be held in September this year.

Putin has been continuously refusing to call Navalny by his name, carrying on with the Pro-Kremlin media’s joke to refer to him as just a mere blogger. Alexei Navalny actually used to work as an anti-corruption blogger over a decade ago. But he has since evolved into being really successful in inspiring millions of Russians with his groundbreaking investigations exposing  the corruption of Putin’s oligarchs and presenting them in his YouTube videos. He is probably the first opposition leader in Russia to have successfully managed to create a nationwide network of supporters. In a voter apathetic country like Russia, he has been successful in inspiring the Russian youth. With his YouTube videos and international fame, it seems like that Navalny has become Putin’s main rival. Maybe he’s yet to be a contender for the country’s authority positions, but he’s sure marked his spot as arguably the world’s best-known Russian.

The protests started in January, a week after Navalny’s courageous return to Russia. In August 2020, he was poisoned by a nerve agent and had to be rushed to a hospital in Germany where he spent his entire recovery period of five months. Navalny probably wanted to return to Russia this early in order to avoid the risk of losing relevancy or being tagged as a foreign-backed agent. However, his gamble has resulted in him getting arrested. The Russian court has charged him with violating his suspended sentence and leaving for Germany.

The European Court of Human Rights has pronounced the conviction unlawful. The verdict has been condemned by the EU as well. France, Germany, the US, and the UK government have also criticised the verdict. Unsurprisingly, the Kremlin hasn’t been listening to any of those. It has already expelled three European diplomats for joining the Navalny protests. 

However, in reality, Russia’s heedless reactions do not tell even half of the whole story. Navalny’s YouTube videos about Putin’s corruption are being watched by millions of viewers on a regular basis and the protests have started to reach the rural parts of Russia. He has made the Kremlin look weak and extremely vengeful by getting himself arrested. And while he serves his sentence behind the bars, his loyal and motivated supporters are not stopping with their protests in the near future. They are taking to the streets across Russia’s eleven time zones every day to protest. Along with the pandemic situation and a series of economic issues, Alexei Navalny is President Vladimir Putin’s top concern before this year’s parliamentary elections and rightfully so.

 

References:

  1. Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny handed jail term, prompting protests across Russia
  2.  Russia: Mass detentions after Putin critic Navalny jailed

 


Md. Takrim Hossain is a life-long Liverpool fan and a proud Slytherin who spends the day annoying people talking about Geopolitics and Military history and the night by himself, flipping through the pages of Asterix while listening to Britpop and maybe re-watching a classic David Lynch or a Wong Kar-wai masterpiece.

 

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