On the 17th of January 2021, Russia’s most notorious opposition leader, Alexei Navalny was arrested on his return to Russia following a five-month stint in the intensive care unit of a Berlin hospital following a suspected assassination attempt.
He was detained immediately upon arrival by Russian authorities at the airport on the grounds that he had breached his terms of bail following a 2014 fraud conviction. Following this, numerous protestors went to the streets of cities across the Federation protesting this detainment for what they believe to be politically motivated.
Navalny is a qualified lawyer from a small city, Obninsk, which is just outside of Moscow. He is most well-known for his anti-corruption movement and has millions of followers in Russia and many abroad also. He vehemently advocates the idea that the highest levels of the Russian government are completely corrupt. He argues that Russia operates by a feudal system and even calling it “tsarist”.
He has spent years criticising the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, claiming that he and billionaires around the country effectively consolidate power with a firm grasp on a quid pro quo basis. The allegations put forward by Navalny that Putin would make decisions in favour of the aristocracy and in return they would fund his campaigns for re-election or even personal benefits.
This can be explicitly seen in Navalny’s publication of drone footage of a $100 million “palace” off the coast of the Black Sea which he alleges was bought for Putin by one of the Oligarchs.
These types of stories grow exponentially and support for the movement grow at an equal pace. He is the current president’s main opposition. However, Navalny is barred from running in elections due to the fraud conviction from 2014 in which he received a three-and-a-half-year suspended sentence.
Even though he cannot directly run against Putin, he is still seen as a gargantuan threat by him. While flying on a plane in Siberia in August, he collapsed, and the plane had to commit to an emergency landing in order to save his life. He was brought to a hospital in Omsk in which the toxicologist said that there were no toxins in his blood. A German non-profit organisation said they would fund moving him to a hospital in Berlin in which the same toxin test was conducted and the Germans concluded that he had been exposed to the deadly virus, Novichok.
This is a tool engineered by the Soviet Union which is intended as an assassination method. It has been seen previously in a case in Salisbury, England where an attempt was made on the life of a retired KGB officer.
Following months recovering in a coma, he eventually made the decision to return to Russia but while he was incapacitated, he was unable to comply by the bail arrangements and present himself to a police station. This was used to arrest him on arrival.
Due to this momentous development, his supporters were outraged. They instantly took to the streets in disdain to show their anger. There were clashes with riot police and thousands of arrests.
The situation in the courts is contentious. He was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison in an ad hoc court room within a police station in Moscow in early February. As of now, his legal team are in the processing of appealing this decision and the files are expected to be filed Saturday, 20th February. The situation is still developing on a day-by-day basis.