From blogger to anti-corruption lawyer, from organizer of the biggest protests since the fall of the USSR to political prisoner. The Russian opposition leader, Alexei Navalni, who has won the vitola of public enemy number one of Russian President Vladimir Putin in ten years of political activity, was awarded the Sakharov Prize for freedom of conscience.
“Vladimir the poisoner”, this is how Navalni called the head of the Kremlin last February during the trial in which he was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison, a political process criticized by the Russian opposition and the West.
At 45, Navalni is the beacon of the first free generation in Russian history.
Novichok and jail sentence
After several years of clashes, in August 2020 the authorities said enough and decided to eliminate the Russian politician with the greatest pull in the West.
The secret operation of the special services went completely wrong and Navalni returned to Russia in mid-January like a phoenix to challenge the Russian leader.
“Putin ordered my assassination,” Navalni said after recovering in Germany of poisoning with a toxic agent from the Novichok family.
But the Kremlin was waiting for him. The authorities took advantage of his refusal to appear before the authorities on an old criminal case to send him to prison.
In this way, Putin gets rid of another enemy as happened at the time with the richest man in Russia, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, imprisoned in Siberia (2003), or the opponent Boris Nemtsov, assassinated in front of the Kremlin in 2015.
Navalni was the opponent with the most electoral appeal, but after being the victim of an assassination attempt at the hands of the Federal Security Service (FSB, former KGB), he has become a celebrity abroad.
Until then, that honor, poisoning with toxic agents, had been reserved almost exclusively for former FSB spies who had crossed over to the enemy, such as Skripal or Litvinenko.
The King of Youtube
Navalni, an expert in the use of social networks, was already preparing his revenge, which came in the form of three compromising videos for the Kremlin.
With the help of Bellingcat and several Western media, he managed to collect data that proves, he says, the involvement of the FSB in his assassination attempt.
It did not limit itself to this, but included a telephone conversation with one of the alleged participants in the secret operation who admitted that his accomplices had sprayed Novichok on the opponent’s underwear.
The last poisoned gift from the opponent to the Kremlin was the video entitled “Putin’s Palace” about the mansion that the president’s friends would have built for him on the Black Sea and that one of his best friends, businessman Arkady Rotenberg, later admitted that it was of your property.
All this not only exposed the FSB and Putin, but they were seen by more than 150 million people, a figure that contrasts with the seven million who followed the president’s annual press conference on those same dates.
Russia without Putin
It all started in the liberal Yábloko party, from where Naval he was expelled for his nationalist ideas. But his ostracism would not last long, since in the parliamentary elections of 2011 he managed to organize the largest anti-government protests since the fall of the USSR to the war cry “Russia without Putin.”
The following year he made the great leap into politics by running for the Moscow mayoral elections, where he won almost a third of the votes, an unprecedented milestone for the extra-parliamentary opposition.
The animosity of Putin, which never calls him by name, stems from the numerous occasions on which the opponent has brought to light the shame of allies of the Kremlin, whom he denounces with his accusing finger on social networks far beyond the reach of censorship.
For the Kremlin whip, there are no taboos when it comes to denouncing corruption in the public administration. Be the Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev; the president of Parliament or a state bank, the attorney general, or the wife of the presidential spokesperson.
The opposition leader was no longer just a nuisance, but a threat. Since then, he has been sentenced to prison terms for alleged economic crimes, which disqualified him as a candidate for the Kremlin, and has been attacked on several occasions.
“In reality, Navalni has received a life sentence. He will not get out of jail for the duration of Putin’s political life, ”said Guennadi Gudkov, a former Social Democratic MP in exile in Bulgaria.
Even behind bars, he managed to influence the September legislative elections with his Smart Vote program, although it did not prevent the Kremlin party from renewing the majority.