Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic, Alexei Navalny, was arrested and placed under custody after he arrived in Moscow for the first time since he was poisoned and had to take refuge in Germany in August 2020. Navalny called his arrest by the police “a mockery” and called for street protests.
In a video recorded from the police station in Moscow, the Russian activist told his compatriots not to “be afraid to take to the streets” and not to do it for him “but for their futures.”
Dozens of his supporters gathered outside the police station demanding his release and protesting against the Putin government. While Navalny was being held, he was heard shouting “disgrace” and “Putin resign.”
Russian prosecutors claim that Putin’s opponent violated his parole’s terms after his conviction for alleged embezzlement, charges that Navalny denies. The judge ordered the opposition leader’s arrest for 30 days for violating his probation. On January 29th, he will have a new hearing to determine whether he will receive a prison sentence or his sentence will be suspended for three and a half years.
In August 2020, Putin’s opponent fell unconscious on a flight from the Siberian city Tomsk and was taken to an emergency hospital in Omsk. Two days later, his friends and supporters convinced the authorities to approve a humanitarian flight to Germany, where he was admitted to a Berlin hospital. It was discovered that the activist had ingested a poisonous toxin.
Nalvany blamed Putin himself as the mastermind of the assassination attempt. The Kremlin denied the accusations, but several analysts agree that the government wants Navalny out of the Russian political arena.
Navalny’s apprehension is due to a new strategy by Putin which, after the poisoning attempt, seeks alternatives to silence his voice in a less scandalous way, more in accordance with the “law,” and which does not generate so much noise in the international community.
Who is Alexei Navalny, the man most feared by Putin?
Alexei Navalny is a Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption activist. He was known to the international community for organizing massive demonstrations demanding anti-corruption reforms in Russia and the resignation of Vladimir Putin and his government.
He is also a member of the Coordinating Council of the Russian Opposition, the Party of Progress leader, and the founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK). In 2020, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Putin avoids mentioning Navalny by name and surname, preferring to refer to him as “a certain political force,” “the person he just mentioned,” “that man,” or “that poor excuse for a politician.”
Navalny is quite an influence in Russia, as he has more than four million subscribers to his YouTube channel and more than two million followers on Twitter. Through these networks, he publishes content about corruption in Russia, organizes political demonstrations, and promotes his campaigns. In a radio interview in 2011, he described United Russia, his country’s ruling party, as a “party of corrupt people and thieves.”
The Russian activist has been arrested several times by the authorities. He received two suspended sentences for embezzlement in two cases, one in July 2013 and the other in December 2014. Both cases have been considered political vendettas, to prevent Putin’s opponent from running in future elections. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the cases violated Navalny’s right to a fair trial. However, they were never overturned.
In 2013, he ran in the Moscow mayoral elections and came in second place with 27% of the votes. The winner was Sergey Sobyanin, Putin’s candidate. In December 2016, Navalny tried to run for Russia’s presidency during the 2018 elections but was excluded by the Central Election Commission and later by the Supreme Court due to a criminal conviction. In March 2017, Navalny and the FBK created the documentary He Is Not Dimon To You, accusing Dmitry Medvedev, the then prime minister and former president of Russia, of corruption, which led to massive protests throughout the country.