What Navalny’s death means for the world

Fear and greed drive Russia’s regime. The opposition leader struck at both

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Editorials

February 20, 2024 - 2:49 PM

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny shows the outside world he had not given up in January 2021 in a Russian penal camp. Four months earlier, Navalny had returned from Germany where he had been treated for six months for poisoning by Vladimir Putin’s thugs. When he returned home, a court sentenced him to several years in prison. (Tass via ZUMA Press/TNS)

Alexei Navalny did not like tragedies. He preferred Hollywood films and fables in which heroes vanquish villains and good triumphs over evil. He had the looks and talent to be one of those heroes, but he was born in Russia and lived in dark times, spending his last days in a penal colony in the Arctic permafrost. 

A fan of “Star Wars”, he described his ordeal in lyrical terms. “Prison [exists] in one’s mind,” he wrote from his cell in 2021. “And if you think carefully, I am not in prison but on a space voyage…to a wonderful new world.” 

That voyage ended on February 16th.

Mr. Navalny’s death was blamed by Russian prison authorities on a blood clot — though his doctor said he suffered from no condition which made that likely. Whatever ends up on his death certificate, he was killed by Vladimir Putin. Russia’s president locked him up; in his name Mr. Navalny was subjected to a regime of forced labor and solitary confinement. Mr. Navalny will be celebrated as a man of remarkable courage. His life will be remembered for what it says about Mr. Putin, what it portends for Russia and what it demands of the world.

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