Skip to main content
  • Share to or

An elaborate murder attempt Meduza’s statement on Alexey Navalny’s 19-year prison sentence

Source: Meduza

On August 4, Alexey Navalny was sentenced to 19 years in a “special regime” prison colony for activities that the Russian authorities classify as “extremism.” A Moscow court deemed Russia’s most popular opposition leader a “particularly dangerous recidivist” and shaved just one year off the sentence state prosecutors had requested.

A lot has changed in the year and a half since Navalny returned to Russia from Germany and received his first prison sentence. Though that sentence was less than three years, many saw it as rock bottom, thinking the situation couldn’t get any worse; thousands of people who opposed the ruling took to the streets. Following the protests, Navalny was sentenced to nine years in a “strict regime” prison colony. And now he has been sentenced to 19 years in a “special regime” colony — the most severe type of Russian prison. But between Navalny’s first and second prison sentences, the Putin regime launched a full-scale war against Ukraine, casting everything in a different light.

The fact that dissidents — and anyone who openly opposes the criminal actions of the Russian authorities, for that matter — can be thrown in jail at the Kremlin’s whim has long since ceased to surprise anyone who follows Russian politics. So too have the eye-popping prison sentences: “The numbers don't matter. It's just a sign above my bunk, that's all,” Navalny wrote after his second sentence was announced in March 2022. Opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza is set to spend the next 25 years in a “strict regime” prison, while our colleague, journalist Ivan Safronov, is serving a 22-year sentence. If anything is surprising, it’s the fact that after a year and a half of full-scale war, the Russian authorities still haven’t repealed their moratorium on the death penalty.

In Navalny’s case, like in that of Vladimir Kara-Murza — who was also the target of a poisoning attempt before his imprisonment — it’s important to remember that these sentences are nothing more than elaborate murder attempts. There can be no reasonable doubt that it was precisely the Russian authorities who tried to kill both men. And judging by the treatment Navalny has received in the prison where he’s currently being held, they haven’t abandoned this goal.

Against the backdrop of Russia’s war against Ukraine, the wave of “Stalinist” (in their spirit, if not their scale) repressions have receded to the periphery of public attention. A consensus has developed that the fate of Russia’s political prisoners will depend on the outcome of the war: if it ends poorly for the Kremlin, the victims of Putin’s repressions will be set free to build the “beautiful Russia of the future.” Unfortunately, this is far from guaranteed, and even the death of Putin himself won’t necessarily bring democracy. On the contrary, there’s a high chance that, if it’s defeated in Ukraine, the regime will seek retribution against dissidents at home.

People in Russia need us more than ever now. Help us to continue our work.

This is precisely why we must avoid getting accustomed not just to the war crimes being committed in Ukraine, but also to the criminal policies inside Russia. Every one of us has the choice to resist this habituation. This, more than anything else, offers hope that the repressions will come to an end, that the regime will change, and that Alexey, along with the rest of the country’s political prisoners, will be set free.

And that those who are trying to kill him will get the punishments they deserve.

Cover photo: Natalia Kolesnikova / AFP / Scanpix / LETA

  • Share to or