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The main opponent of Vladimir Putin and a fierce fighter against the corruption of the Russian elites, Alexei Navalni is determined to continue facing the Kremlin after having survived his poisoning and returned this Sunday to Russia, where he was already arrested.
“Here I am at home. I am not afraid (…) since I know that I am right and that the cases against me are completely mounted. I am not afraid of anything,” Navalni declared upon arrival in Moscow, shortly before his arrest .
The 44-year-old lawyer, convalescing since last year in Germany, decided to return to Moscow despite threats of arrest by the Russian prison services and the risk to his safety.
This return to Russia seemed almost impossible in August, when the charismatic opponent arrived in Berlin aboard a medicalized plane. A few days earlier, he had suddenly fallen ill on a plane in Siberia and had been admitted to a Russian hospital for 48 hours.
After three weeks in a coma, three European laboratories concluded that the main Russian opponent was the victim of a neurotoxic substance from Novichok’s group, created in the Soviet era for military purposes.
Having survived this alleged assassination attempt, Navalni has not been slow to fight back. In mid-December he released a telephone conversation in which he unmasked one of the agents of the Russian security services (FSB) to admit that they wanted to poison him.
For the opponent, the poisoning was orchestrated under the direct order of President Vladimir Putin, his sworn enemy, who never speaks his name. The president rejects all the accusations.
– Investigations and elections –
Ignored by the national media, without representation in Parliament and without the possibility of running as a candidate following a conviction for tax fraud that he denounces as a politician, Navalni remains the most powerful voice of the Russian opposition.
For years, he has fought against the Kremlin party, United Russia, which he calls a formation of “thieves and swindlers.” His videos on YouTube – where he has more than 4.8 million followers – have a large audience and his investigations into the corruption of elites add up to tens of millions of views.
The opposition and its Fund to Fight Corruption (FBK), created in 2012, are still in the sights of the authorities.
For Navalni, all this is retaliation for having organized a protest movement in 2019, before the elections in Moscow.
It was in the legislative elections of December 2011, which generated a wave of protests, that this activist gained notoriety and stood out for his charisma and the virulence of his attacks on the Kremlin.
In September 2013 he obtained his first electoral success in the Moscow municipal elections. He was surprising when he came second, with 27.2% of the votes, just behind the outgoing mayor, Putin’s former chief of staff, Sergei Sobianin, a result that confirmed him as a key figure in the opposition.
In the beginning, Navalni also participated in demonstrations with racist overtones, such as those of the Russian March. However, in recent years he has moved away from these movements and has progressively erased the nationalist tone of his speeches.
Since 2007, the lawyer has fought the government by buying shares in semi-public groups, such as the oil company Rosneft and the gas giant Gazprom. Relying on its status as a minority shareholder, it demands transparency in the accounts.
Since 2013, this father of two children has been sentenced to suspended prison terms for two cases of diversion of funds that he calls politicians and that led to the rejection of his candidacy until 2028.
He also went to prison on several occasions for infractions of the legislation on demonstrations.
He has always rejected his court convictions and ensures that nothing can diminish his motivation, not even threats against his safety and that of his family.
“I have been in politics for a long time, I am often arrested (…), it is part of life,” he relativizes. “I do the work I prefer, people support me, I have many supporters. What can make a man happier?”
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