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National review

Bravest man in the world

The strategy envisaged by Vladimir Putin to get rid of his most outspoken enemy seems obvious: slow-motion assassination. The hero of Russia for our time, Alexei Navalny, sits in Penal Colony No.2 awaiting his fate, which is probably death from illness. Conditions are so bad in the prison, which is currently in the throes of a tuberculosis epidemic, that Putin can simply let the institution do its dirty work for him. Navalny is tortured in his cell – guards wake him up eight times a night to deny him rest – and as he complains of a cough (although the high fever he cited earlier this week has subsided), it doesn’t appear to have a platinum club. medical care. He has two herniated discs and is starting to lose sensation in his hands, according to his lawyers, citing an MRI. He has lost 30 pounds in the past three weeks. Navalny, 44, is the world’s greatest journalist (his briefing on what is believed to be Putin’s billion-dollar Black Sea Palace, which is so ornate it would make a Romanov blush, was the scoop of the century). He is also our main dissident (he is a tireless activist against the authoritarianism and corruption of the Putin regime) and a fantastically gifted artist. Imagine a Borat who, instead of ridiculing easy targets without risking anything except maybe spraining his wrist while picking up all the rewards sent to him, actually heads out into the wild for himself. oppose one of the most evil men in the world, under constant threat. assassination. This is the best way to understand how Navalny, posing as a state security agent, managed to tape a phone interview with one of his own (failed) assassins. Navalny even asked the potential murderer to explain how he did it: by putting the deadly nerve agent Novichok in Navalny’s underwear as he campaigned against Putinism in Siberia. Navalny then took a flight (to Moscow) that was so long that the killers assumed Navalny would be dead by the time the plane landed, but instead the pilot made an emergency landing and called an ambulance. First aid extended Navalny’s life. His wife arranged for him to receive first world attention in a German hospital, but despite this, he spent five weeks in a coma. Lesson learned? No. As soon as Navalny woke up he announced that he would return to Russia and fight Putinism again. Putin joked that he couldn’t have ordered the coup because if he had, his spies would have finished the job (he laughed as he said this), and his regime announced that Navalny would be jailed. if he came back. When Navalny did return last January, the lawyer turned activist shareholder turned unofficial leader of the opposition was immediately arrested at the airport. At his request, Russians rallied in the streets from coast to coast to protest against kleptocracy. Yet during his first few weeks in prison, Navalny continued to post casual updates on social media. He called his accommodation “our friendly concentration camp”. In recent days, his jobs have taken a dark turn and he went on a hunger strike last week. You just don’t see such courage in Russia. You can’t see it anywhere. It is incomprehensible, perhaps more today than before. As our world becomes more and more secure, true physical courage is increasingly scarce. It has become common, in the United States at least, for prominent figures to claim political martyrdom status when faced with nothing but crass criticism. For all of those who claim to be soldiers of truth, defenders of democracy, and adherents of human rights, the existence of Navalny and his woes must at least be instructive – and humbling. He is determined to oppose Putinism with all he has. If it costs him his life, it probably will. “I won’t be able to persuade everyone, but I will persuade some people just because I stand by the facts and the truth,” he told The New Yorker. Assuming Navalny’s life is about to be choked with Putinism, it’s also hard not to feel a twinge of resentment and guilt over how little we in the West have done to attract it. pay attention to what’s going on. Alexei Navalny should be the most famous person on the planet. There should be schools bearing his name from Seattle to Warsaw. News broadcasts are expected to start nightly with grim updates on his condition. World leaders are expected to begin each press conference furiously demanding his release from prison. George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Barbra Streisand are expected to take to the talk show circuit to make their case. Students should wear T-shirts with their face on. Taylor Swift is expected to be at the top of fundraising concerts for his party, which is banned from participating in parliamentary elections. The Grammys, Oscars, and Emmys should be shocked with tributes to him. And yet, what happens as Navalny’s life is crushed out of him? His fate barely registers in the West. We’re all so obsessed with our own nano-arguments that this gigantic historical figure remains somewhat of a stranger. Most of the rare reports that reach us in America about him come from Russian boffins, niche writers. He’s such an obscure character that the New York Times could make headlines less than three months ago: “Who is Aleksei Navalny?” Who indeed. A tennis player, maybe? Putin was slightly taken aback by all of this; who could have expected the troublemaker to actually return to Russia, and how unruly protesters could become if Navalny became a martyr? Insignificant Russian rulers – Putin has just signed a law generously extending his own potential leadership term until 2036, when his reign would be longer than Stalin’s by more than a decade – have already been overthrown in Russia, and although Putin controls television and many other things. Otherwise, in the media, the Internet has turned out to be a powerful counter-programming. Navalny’s YouTube videos have gained over 100 million views, and he also has millions of followers on Instagram and Twitter. Navalny already talks about the assassination attempt as the moment “I died”, and he lives as if it can’t be destroyed. If he somehow survives to get out of that jail cell, he’ll become a mythical character on a plane along with Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Vaclav Havel, and Nelson Mandela. But Putin is aware of this possibility and reluctant to let it happen. It would be very much in his character for him to cause Navalny’s death without making it too obvious. Meanwhile, in the West, we wonder if it is about removing voters from banning interest groups from handing out bottled water at polling stations.



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