By Dima Kulakov
On December 29th, Russia launched an investigation into Alexi Navalny. Navalny is a Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption activist. He ran for office, organized demonstrations, and promoted anti-corruption reforms, in Russia. In August, Navalny was poisoned with Novichok (a nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union) and was hospitalized, in grave condition. He only fully recovered from this attack in mid-October, after treatment in Germany. Though not confirmed, many believe that this was a politically motivated attack ordered by Putin. Putin refuted his involvement, claiming that, had the FSB (The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation) been behind the attack, Navalny would have been killed. On December 14th, however, Bellingcat, The Insider, CNN, Der Spiegel, and the Anti-Corruption Foundation “published a joint investigation implicating agents from Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) in Navalny’s poisoning.” Investigators traced members of the unit employing telecom and travel data. The investigation found that “Navalny was under surveillance by a group of eight operatives from the unit since 2017 and there may have been earlier attempts to poison him.”
Just after the case against Navalny was launched, Navalny tweeted “I immediately said: they will try to jail me for not dying and then looking for my killers. For proving that Putin is personally behind everything. He is a thief, ready to kill those who refuse to keep quiet about his theft.”
In recent years, there have been a number of cases of suppression of opposition by the Kremlin. With Russia’s elections looming on the horizon, Russia’s “worst economic performance in more than a decade” taking place, and “public frustration mounting over declining living standards,” it is no surprise that the government would take steps to hinder Navalny’s rise in popularity.
The Russian Investigative Committee claims that a number of nonprofits headed by Navalny (like his Anti-Corruption Foundation), spent $4.81 million (of the $7.94 he raised) “acquiring personal items and vacationing abroad.”
Essentially, this means that Navalny will be arrested immediately if he appears on Russian soil and, if convicted by Russian authorities, any donations made to Navalny will be confiscated by Putin’s regime (ironic, as these donations were to be used against Putin). Though Navalny claims that he will return to Russia, this seems increasingly unlikely, given the risk posed to him in Russia.