Within the “heroic” struggle of Alexei Navalny, the “public enemy No. 1 ‘

He was partially blinded, poisoned and sentenced to nearly a decade in prison, but Vladimir Putin’s greatest enemy will not back down.

He was partially blinded after toxic chemicals were thrown in his face, nearly died after allegedly being poisoned by the Kremlin in Siberia, and this March was sentenced to nearly a decade in a Russian maximum security prison.

But the spirit of Alexei Navalny – the man described as “public enemy # 1” – remains intact, allies of the 45-year-old lawyer-turned-opposition leader said. The Australian.

“He is a very strong person. He does not want to show Putin any weakness or indication that he is ready to surrender in any way, “said anti-corruption lawyer Lyubov, who started working with Navalny in 2011.

“Even though he knows that Putin will try to keep him in prison for as long as possible and that his sentence can be extended at any time.

“Navalny realizes that he is being watched by the millions of Russians who support him and tries to lead by example with his strength of spirit, even in the difficult conditions of a Russian prison.”

The father of two – born in 1976 to a military family near Moscow, has come out of obscurity to become the dictator’s biggest internal opponent – has been denouncing Kremlin corruption since 2008.

Putin first tried to put him behind bars 10 years ago when prosecutors accused Navalny of embezzling timber.

When that didn’t stop, they filed new charges months later, accusing him and his brother, Oleg, of stealing from two companies.

While both men were sentenced to three and a half years in prison, only Oleg served their sentence. Navalny’s conviction has been suspended, with a Kremlin-aligned newspaper at the time noting that putting him behind bars “could turn him into the Russian version of Nelson Mandela.”

In subsequent years, as his campaign to remove the longtime president inspired unprecedented street protests that, at their height, involved tens of thousands of people marching through Moscow chanting “Putin is a thief,” the apartment of his family was repeatedly searched by the police.

And in 2017, he nearly lost the use of his right eye when a pro-Kremlin activist threw chemicals in his face.

But it wasn’t until August 2020, when he returned to Moscow from Siberia, where he had lent his support to local activists, that Navalny’s life was truly threatened, collapsing in agony on the return flight.

After an emergency landing, he was rushed to hospital in critical condition – and while Russian officials presented overwork, too much alcohol and a “simple lack of breakfast” as explanations for his violent illness, the truth was much more. left.

Doctors in Berlin, where Navalny was flown for medical treatment, discovered after a series of tests that the activist had been targeted with a form of Novichok – the Soviet-era nerve agent – smeared on his. underpants from agents of the Federal Security Service (FSB), which then passed through his skin into the bloodstream.

The crime – which Navalny uncovered himself, with the help of investigative journalism site Bellingcat – was mocked by Putin, who refuses to say his opponent’s name aloud.

“Who needs him?” the president said of Navalny with a laugh when asked during a press conference about allegations that he had ordered the hit.

If Russia had wanted to poison “the Berlin patient,” Putin added, “we probably would have finished the job.”

Several months after the poisoning, Navalny felt well enough to resume his activism and last year made the decision that he “knew” that he had to “from the moment I opened my eyes”.

Despite warnings from Russian authorities that he would be arrested on his return because he was unable to check in with his custody officer while in Germany, Navalny and his wife Yulia returned to Moscow on January 17.

At passport control, several agents approached him and took him away, in penal colony no. 2 in the capital, the notorious prison camp where he was incarcerated until his trial last March.

Along with Navalny and his supporters, Western governments and human rights groups say all charges against him are politically motivated and aim to stifle his attempts to challenge Putin to the polls.

Asked if he had been prepared for the leader’s furious revenge upon returning to Russia, Ms. Sobol said The Australian: “As anyone could be ready for an assassination attempt or be jailed indefinitely. He was always aware that some kind of … self-sacrifice would be necessary. ”

“Navalny’s story has the characteristics of an epic. It’s almost biblical, “Vladimir Ashurkov, a former banker who is now the executive director of the Navalny anti-corruption group FBK, told the newspaper.

“He is a brave hero poisoned by his opponent, the Tsar, and miraculously survives assassination. He recovers and talks to one of his killers of him. And then, despite all the threats, he returns to his homeland where he is imprisoned but still sends his diatribes from behind bars and from the trial.

“This is a heroic story. And, you know, I don’t think we’re at the end yet. ”

After his sentence two months ago, Navalny tweeted that he and his supporters would continue to fight Kremlin censorship in order to “bring the truth to the Russian people.”

“I am very grateful to everyone for their support. And, guys, I mean: the best support for me and other political prisoners is not sympathy and kind words, but actions, “she wrote.

“Any activity against Putin’s deceptive and thieving regime. Any opposition to these war criminals.

“In 2013, after hearing my first verdict, I wrote this and now I repeat it: don’t sit idle. This toad sitting on an oil pipe won’t overturn on its own.

Originally published as Within the “heroic” struggle of Alexei Navalny, the “public enemy No. 1 ‘

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