Brave Russians honor Navalny

His courage is mirrored by those taking risks to honor his memory



February 19, 2024 - 3:04 PM

Police officers detain a man laying flowers to Alexei Navalny at the Memorial to Victims of Political Repression in St. Petersburg, Russia on Friday, Feb. 16. Russian authorities say that Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison. He was 47. (AP Photo)

The sad truth is that Alexei Navalny’s death last week—murder in prison by any other name — has at least for now advanced Vladimir Putin’s autocratic interests by removing a main focus of domestic opposition. Yet the political assassination is also exposing the illegitimacy of Mr. Putin’s rule as ordinary Russians take personal risks to honor Navalny’s memory.

A telling example is a short video published by the Times of London, which shares ownership with the Journal, showing Russians leaving flowers at a makeshift memorial in St. Petersburg. On the video, two black-clad men who appear to be security agents are seen removing tributes left by earlier mourners. But other Russians then follow and lay their own bouquets at the site.

Such impromptu memorials have popped up across Russia. Citizens take a personal risk if they participate. Some 400 people were detained across Russia over the weekend for participating in rallies commemorating the Putin opponent and anti-corruption activist, according to human-rights group OVD-Info. This is the largest display of open defiance to the Kremlin since protests against Mr. Putin’s Ukraine invasion in 2022.

Navalny’s death deprives Mr. Putin’s opponents of one of their few remaining prominent leaders, as Mr. Putin intended. But his martyrdom for liberty will also live on across the years as an example for others—and perhaps long after Mr. Putin is gone and dead, which may have to occur at the same time given that he fears what a successor might expose about his rule.

Still, the brave tributes to Navalny show that Mr. Putin hasn’t succeeded in killing the courage and conviction of Russians who want a better government. Which is perhaps Alexei Navalny’s greatest legacy, and his most fitting monument.

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