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‘He walked with a smile on his face and his head held high. And he died a hero.’ Opposition politician Ilya Yashin writes about Alexey Navalny from prison

Source: Meduza
Sefa Karacan / Anadolu Agency / ABACAPRESS / ddp images / Vida Press

Opposition politician Ilya Yashin’s Telegram channel has published a post about Alexey Navalny. Yashin himself was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison for spreading “fakes” about the Russian army. In the post, Yashin says that he only learned about Navalny’s death on February 19, and reminisced about politician Boris Nemtsov, his friend who was killed in February 2015. Yashin says he understands the risks he faces, and that his life is “in Putin’s hands,” but adds that he will keep going. Meduza is publishing a translation of Yashin’s post in full.

News comes slowly to the camp barracks, and I learned about Alexey Navalny’s death only yesterday. It’s hard to convey my shock. It’s hard to gather my thoughts. The pain and horror are unbearable. 

And yet I won’t keep silent — I’ll say what I think is important. 

For me, there’s no question: what happened to Navalny? I have no doubt that he was murdered. For three years, Alexey was under the authorities’ control, the same authorities who put together an unsuccessful assassination attempt in 2020. Now, they’ve finished the job.

For me there’s no question: who killed him? I have no doubt that it was Putin. He’s a war criminal. Navalny was his main opponent in Russia, and the Kremlin despised him. Putin had both motive and opportunity. I’m convinced he ordered the assassination.

I understand how state propaganda will begin manipulating public opinion. They’ll say that Navalny’s death is disadvantageous to the president, that it is illogical to kill him a month before the election, that Putin is focused on global politics and has no time to think about some convict… Complete nonsense, dismiss it out of hand. After Alexey’s poisoning in 2020, propaganda defended Putin with the argument: “if he’d wanted to kill him, he would’ve killed him.” That’s right. He wanted to, and he did. And he didn’t just kill him, he killed him defiantly. On the eve of the election, so that no one would doubt Putin’s involvement. He also killed Prigozhin ostentatiously, so that no one would doubt it either.

In Putin’s mind, this is how power is asserted: through murder, brutality, and showy revenge. This is not the mindset of a statesman. This is the thinking of a gang leader. So let’s face it: Putin is the leader of a mafia structure that has merged with our state. He’s devoid of any moral or legal constraints. He keeps people in fear, those who aren’t afraid — they’re imprisoned and destroyed.

That’s why Boris Nemtsov was shot dead. That’s why Alexey Navalny was murdered. For three years in the colony, he was tortured with punishment cells, they tried to break him so that he’d beg for mercy. But it didn’t work, and then they took his life.

The confrontation between Navalny and Putin showed the scale of their personalities. Alexey will go down in history as a man of exceptional courage who walked the walk for his beliefs. He walked in disdain of fear and death. He walked with a smile on his face and his head held high. And he died a hero.

Putin will remain a small man who accidentally gained enormous power. A person who hides in a bunker, kills stealthily, and takes millions hostage to his complexes. But I don’t wish him death. I dream that he will answer for his crimes. Not only before God, but before an earthly court.

Alexey Navalny was my friend. So was Boris Nemtsov. We had a common cause and dedicated our lives to making Russia peaceful, free, and happy. Now both my friends are dead. I feel a black emptiness inside. And, of course, I understand the risks I face. I’m behind bars, my life is in Putin’s hands, and it is in danger. But I will keep going.

Standing over Boris’s body in February 2015, I swore to myself not to fear, not to give up, and not to run. Nine years later, as I mourn Alexey, I can only repeat that vow. 

As long as my heart beats in my chest, I will fight tyranny. As long as I live, I will fear no evil. As long as I breathe, I will be with my people. 

I swear it.

Alexey, sleep well, brother. 

Yulia, Lyudmila Ivanovna, Anatoly Ivanovich, Oleg, Dasha, Zakhar, stay strong. 

I'm with you.

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