Danielle O’Brien, Staff
As the world watches Russia erupt into pro-democracy protests, we must question what has been the catalyst to push them into this state? Was it the long periods of systematic oppression? The silencing of people’s freedom of speech? There are many explanations as to why the Russian people are tired of the status quo, but the martyr of these protests could be Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who escaped an assassination attempt last August, has now been sentenced to serve three years in prison for seeking treatment outside of Russia.
Alexei Navalny, an outspoken political opponent to Vladamir Putin, has gained support from the youth of Russia as he promises to return Russia to its rightful owners: the people. Navalny, a lawyer, is a popular geopolitican, posing as a threat to President Putin himself best known for his bravery to stand against Russian corruption even in his early days as a lawyer, exposing insider trading. Navalny has attracted his youth following through his connections to social media and YouTube channels dedicated to investigating the higher ups in Russian society, including President Putin himself. Navalny posed a clear threat to Putin in the upcoming September elections with his rapidly growing following. Recently, however, Navalny’s political career has taken a bleak turn;within this last week, he has been sentenced to spend the rest of a previous house arrest sentence in jail. The sentencing was an obvious reach for the Russia government trying to hold back Navalny from becoming involved any further in politics. However, the government had missed out on their chance to silence Navalny in August considering he has an even bigger following now, specifically as a result of such blatant corruption.
Navalny was poisoned last August, by poison nerve agent novichok, a poison specific to Russia. Miraculously, Navalny survived. As Navalny was transported to a hospital in Germany for treatment of his poisoning, he was to be charged with violation of his sentencing from a previous embezzlement case, and arrested as soon as he landed back in Russia. In 2014, Navalny and his brother were put on trial for embezzlement, a case which was deemed by the European court of human rights as “arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable.” During his retrial in 2017, his brother was sentenced to three years in prison, while Navalny was released to five years on house arrest. Russian officials who charged Navalny with violating the terms of his suspended sentence point to his recovering in Germany and supposed “failure to report ” to his scheduled reporting times. Considering Navalny had spent two years of his sentence on house arrest, the remaining almost three years will be spent in prison, one can assert that Navalny’s imprisonment is a clear sign from the Russian government of his powerful effect on the Russian public which government officials, like President Putin, wish to silence. Nevertheless, this is even more unlikely now considering the support Navalny has gained in the face of Russian corruption. In fact, thousands have taken to the streets to break their silence on the issue.
It is reported that 5,100 protestors have been arrested in Russia as a results of these protests. Clips of the treatment of such protests by police have been circulating throughout social media.. Even from prison, Navalny continues to urge on his supporters, pleading for them to “overcome their fear and free the country from a bunch of thieves.” In a cold Russia, we are witnessing history being made as hundreds of thousands of Russians are breaking their silence to take a stand against the Russian establishment.