The sentence with which a Russian court sentenced opposition leader Alexei Navalni to three and a half years in jail constitutes another unacceptable step in the authoritarian drift of President Vladimir Putin. The activist has been found guilty of violating the conditions of a conviction for fraud handed down in 2014. To give an idea of the nature of the process – which has only lasted a few hours – it is enough to note that the 2014 sentence was considered arbitrary by the European Court of Human Rights and that the Prosecutor’s Office has charged against Navalni for his failure to appear for court summons in the period in which the opponent was in a coma in Germany, after surviving a poisoning attempt in Siberia by a small margin.
The scandalous sentence marks what is perhaps the most difficult moment for Putin in a national key since the protests over fraud in the 2011 elections. With his brave return to Russia, after the assassination attempt and knowing that he was going to be arrested nothing more Stepping on Russian territory, Navalni has breathed new vigor into the protest against Putin. Tens of thousands of citizens have repeatedly demonstrated throughout the vast geography of the country, even being aware that each day of protest ends with thousands of detainees and that, in an authoritarian regime such as Russia, standing out has a high and lasting cost. Over the past weekend alone, the police – who used electric guns – arrested more than 5,100 people. These protesting citizens are therefore also brave.
The regime’s reaction is an indication of growing support for the jailed leader, who is broadening his bases geographically and socially. In this regard, it is necessary to highlight the increase in the presence of women in the protests. And in the face of traditional repressive methods, Navalni supporters have cleverly turned the resource of networks into a key asset. Putin has been forced to give explanations about a video of a luxurious palace, allegedly owned by him, which has already accumulated 100 million visits on the Internet.
It remains to be seen whether the protest will achieve continuity and effectiveness, but Putin has reason to be uneasy about this malaise, this courage and this strategy. In this scenario, freedom and physical integrity must be claimed for Navalni – who has stressed that he has no intention of committing suicide. The West must show its support intelligently, without exposing Navalni to criticism of philo-Westernism, and also close ranks so that its pressure on the Kremlin is more effective. A good opportunity is the visit to Moscow planned this week by the EU High Representative for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell. It would be convenient for you to try to meet with the convicted opponent.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.