A True, Courageous Hero
Robert A. Levine 2-20-24
Alexi Navalny’s murder last week was act of conspicuous evil by the autocratic Putin regime in Russia. Putin’s malign control of the Russian state and his actions against his political opponents mirrors those of his glorified predecessor, Joseph Stalin, during the existence of the Soviet Union. But instead of the KGB, we have its successor the FSB meting out killings and torture to those who refuse to accept Putin’s desires as paramount in the Russian state. Alexi Navalny must have known what fate likely awaited him when he returned to Russia from Germany in 2021.
Navalny’s political crusade against Putin and his corrupt United Russia party gained public attention in 2011 when he came out and called Putin’s organization “the party of crooks and thieves,” spearheading a national protest movement. This was in preparation for a parliamentary election held the following year. Though United Russia won the election, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe reported irregularities and abuses in the electoral process making the outcome preordained.
In 2013, Navalny was arrested and convicted on charges of fraud, but never-the-less-ran for mayor of Moscow that year. He attained 30 percent of the vote, an unheard-of figure for an opposition candidate in Russia, and claimed that he only lost because the vote was fraudulent. But Navalny showed there was a considerable segment of Russians who were dissatisfied with Putin and gave them a voice. Subsequently, Navalny traveled through Russia trying to set up local political organizations opposing Putin and United Russia.
On a flight from Tomsk to Moscow in August of 2020, Navalny was noted to be sick, and the plane landed in Omsk where he was taken to a hospital. His family was unhappy with his medical care and was able to have him transferred to a hospital in Germany where it was determined that he had been poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. This method of assassination has been utilized domestically and internationally by the FSB to silence Putin’s critics. With the discovery that Novichok had been used, there was little question where the order to kill Navalny had originated.
Subsequently, with his treatment at a German hospital, Navalny appeared to have recovered completely. Showing no evidence of fear, Navalny decided to return to Russia in February 2021, against the advice of family and supporters. He knew that he would be arrested but felt that to emphasize his love for Russia and desire for democratic change, he had to go back. Indeed, Navalny was quickly arrested upon his return on trumped up political charges.
Since then, he has been incarcerated in increasingly harsh conditions in special Russian prisons distant from Moscow. He was kept in a freezing isolation cell much of the time and tortured in various ways. Transferred to a penal colony north of the Arctic Circle, he kept up his spirits and his vision for Russia. He managed to get out letters and communicate with supporters about his condition and what he wanted them to do to change Russia’s autocracy. His acolytes both in Russia and out of country followed his instructions attempting to bring about change. He was a staunch opponent of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in addition to Putin’s structure of the government and the corruption by Putin and his associates.
Finally, on February 16, Navalny was murdered, though the authorities claim he died a sudden death because of a heart problem. His mother asked for a release of his body so that a private autopsy could be done, but so far that has been refused. It is believed that the government does not want the manner of his death to be revealed. There have been demonstrations and memorials all over Russia in honor of Navalny and his wife has vowed to take up his baton to bring about democratic change in Russia. Hundreds to thousands of people supporting Navalny have been arrested by the FSB.
Navalny is a true hero because he was willing to risk torture and death to return to Russia to fight for his beliefs- freedom, human rights, and democracy for the Russian people. There are very few individuals who can withstand torture and the threat of death and yet be willing to defend the principles for which they are fighting. John McCain was another hero who was tortured by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War, but never denounced the United States. Donald Trump, who managed to avoid military service because of a supposed bone spur in his foot, called McCain a loser because he had been captured by the North Vietnamese. In fact, Trump has labeled the members of our military forces as suckers and losers because they are willing to fight and die for our country. Trump has it backwards. Our military men and women deserve our admiration and Trump himself is a loser. Navalny and McCain are examples of true heroes.
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