Navalny dead

Alan Cai

February 16, 2024

Longtime Russian opposition leader, Putin critic, and political prisoner Alexei Navalny was reported dead by Russian officials earlier today. The unforeseen passing came as a surprise considering that he had appeared in a televised court hearing the day before and was ostensibly in good health. Official Russian reports claim that Navalny fell unconscious while taking a stroll and failed to be successfully resuscitated. He was serving a sentence in a Russian penal colony in the Arctic Circle.

Numerous world leaders have condemned the death, arguing that the Russian government was behind the incident. United States President Joe Biden held Putin responsible for Navalny’s demise. Russian authorities have yet to respond to accusations of foul play but Kremlin allies including Margarita Simonyan, chief of Russian state media organization RT, have suggested that Putin was not involved in Navalny’s death because he would gain no benefit and that western powers would somehow benefit from an assassination. Such comments imply that the death was a premeditated murder.

Alexei Navalny had been politically active in Russia for over a decade and some of his notable endeavors include founding the Anti-Corruption Foundation, refounding Russia of the Future, running against Putin, and organizing demonstrations against the Russian dictator. Navalny attracted international attention when he fell ill on a plane flight from Siberia to Moscow in 2020. After being rushed to a hospital in Berlin, it was identified that a Novichok nerve agent, developed in the Soviet Union, was the culprit. Moscow denied that it was behind the attack but refused to open an investigation into the manner.

Although astonishing, Navalny’s death is not unexpected as world leaders and Navalny himself have predicted that the Russian government may attempt to assassinate him for political reasons.

Russia has a long history of using its criminal justice system to settle political scores or leverage hostages. American WNBA star Brittney Griner was imprisoned in 2022 and used as a bargaining chip for the release of a Russian arms dealer. Journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who covered the Second Chechen War, was murdered under mysterious circumstances in 2006. In 2018, Russia was also likely behind a failed poison attempt on former British double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yuvia.

Russia’s horrendous treatment of prisoners and ruthless fear-engendering tactics harm its legitimacy as a world power. Killing political prisoners or otherwise letting political opponents perish under unexplained circumstances is not a signifier of a modern developed country. Although Russia is not known to be democratic nor free in any way, such conduct is nevertheless unacceptable. If sufficient evidence is garnered, western countries ought to further impose consequences upon the federation.