Alexei Navalny: courageous hero

In a world full of cynicism and falsehood, Alexei Navalny stands out as a true hero for the ages.

Long Vladimir Putin’s chief nemesis, with space for political opposition ruthlessly extirpated, Navalny managed to create some, organizing online, and leveraging that into massive street demonstrations. Infuriating Putin. As a candidate in Russia’s 2018 presidential election, Navalny was kept off the ballot.

He’s been jailed repeatedly. Tried on phony embezzlement charges in 2014, he got a suspended sentence that time. But during one jail stint, they tried to kill him, with chemical poisoning.

Nemtsov’s funeral

He managed to survive — unlike a long list of Putin opponents who’ve been murdered.

Then, last August, he fell ill on a flight in Siberia. Clearly another assassination attempt. A quick emergency landing, and Germany’s intervention to whisk him out of the country for treatment, saved Navalny’s life again. He’d been poisoned with novichok (the same Russian specialty nerve agent used on ex-spy Sergei Skripal in Britain), the work of Russia’s security services on Putin’s orders. Navalny even got one of those goons to confess in a bizarre phone call. But despite Putin’s pro forma denials, brazenly using novichok suggests they actually expected exposure — a reminder to others — “This is what happens to Putin opponents.”

On January 17, after a long recovery from the latest murder attempt, Navalny flew back to Russia. Knowing the Kremlin would stop at nothing to remove his threat to its corrupt regime. They’d already said he’d be immediately arrested — on the old embezzlement charge. Yet judging he could not credibly continue to lead his movement from abroad, Navalny returned to the belly of the beast. And was promptly arrested at the airport. In succeeding days, Putin’s gestapo has also been arresting his associates and backers, saying protests on his behalf won’t be tolerated.

Navalny’s bravery is astonishing. Submitting to imprisonment by this vile lawless regime. With grave risk that he won’t come out alive. What will he dare eat behind bars? Will it be announced he “hanged himself?” Or will he simply be chopped in pieces like Kashoggi?

But Putin might just possibly be deterred, now that we have a U.S. President who’s not a fawning toady of dictators but a believer in democracy and human rights. The UN’s ability to deal with rogue regimes handicapped by Russian and Chinese vetoes, I have long advocated for a “League of Democracies” as an alternative body. Limiting membership to genuine democracies (America once more qualifies) would give it the legitimacy and moral authority to act where the UN is hamstrung. I am very pleased that President Biden is taking a big step in that direction, slating a global “Summit of Democracies,” to coordinate with our allies a coherent joint strategy for dealing with the challenges posed by the likes of Russia and China. What an amazing concept. 

One Response to “Alexei Navalny: courageous hero”

  1. Don Bronkema Says:

    We kremlinologists expect Naval’ny to slip & krak his head on a truncheon, but the resistance never dies…F peryot k pobyedu gumanisma!

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