No Russian president has ever had such a strong and popular opposition leader. Vladimir Putin, still firmly in power, today clashes with the strong image of a character who is not just opposition politics, but who expresses free political thinking through the use of social media platforms. And in fact Alexei Navalny, actvist and blogger, has an Instagram account with over 4 million followers and over 6 million users subscribed to his organization’s Youtube channel. Alexei Navalny, was arrested on his return from Germany, where he was being treated for attempted poisoning (last August), and sentenced to three and a half years in prison on charges of having violated the probation decided following a previous sentence.
Arrested last January 17 directly at the airport immediately after his return from Germany. Navalny claims he was poisoned by the Russian security services. A few days after his arrest, Navalny released a detailed video in which Putin is accused of having a building costing over a billion euros built on the shores of the Black Sea, paid for with illicit funds. The video garnered more than one hundred million views and prompted and motivated thousands of Russians (nearly 100,000) to protest on the street to demand Navalny’s release.
All European leaders, US President Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, strongly condemned this repressive action against Navalny and clamored for his release. The Navalny case, which in the previous weeks had already mobilized tens of thousands of people in protests against his arrest, on Tuesday, after the sentence, brought a people of over 1000 people to the streets in Moscow, demonstrators in support of him, who they were then promptly arrested, with a large deployment of police in riot gear.
“Detention of political opponents is against Russia’s international commitments. We also continue to expect a thorough and independent investigation on the attack on Alexei Navalny’s life”.
Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President
Now, if Navalny represents a real threat to Putin’s regime, it is not possible to say with absolute certainty. What is evident, however, is the attempt by Putin’s semi-authoritarian government to prevent political activity contrary to his own, to discourage Navalny’s supporters and thus to instill fear. In the past Navalny had already been arrested but this long sentence is completely unprecedented and marks the beginning of a political crisis that has not been seen for about a decade.
The Russian opposition appears for the first time in history united around a recognizable leader, and no longer fragmented. Although the consensus around Putin is very high, these demonstrations are perceived as a symptom of growing intolerance, caused among other things by the uncertain management of the coronavirus pandemic and the increasingly precarious economic situation. If this is the beginning of a Russian spring, only time will tell, but in the meantime it presents itself as a great movement of popular protest, which is also being tried to cope with tactics that include preventive arrests and threats to the companies they manage. social networks.