An article by my Hoover colleague Dr. Paul Gregory in The Hill
On Feb. 2, the Moscow City Court sentenced Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny to two years and eight months in jail. Noted for its “telephone justice” (verdict dictated by the Kremlin), the Moscow court’s sentence revealed that Russian President Vladimir Putin has concluded that Navalny is too dangerous to remain free. By returning to Moscow after being poisoned and flown to Germany for treatment, Navalny declared he would continue his campaign for a democratic and clean Russia, irrespective of the consequences for him personally. In his statement to the court, Navalny declared that, however much Putin “pretends to be a great geo-politician, he’ll go down in history as a poisoner.”
Navalny has long been a thorn in the Kremlin’s side with his disclosures of high-level corruption by Putin’s inner circle. The Kremlin’s non-stop anti-Navalny media campaign has described him as corrupt, a foreign agent, a bombastic Russia-hating poseur. Sham court proceedings disqualified him from political office. Putin carefully avoided speaking Navalny’s name, referring to him instead as “the blogger” or more recently the “Berlin patient.” As a result of this drum beat, Navalny scarcely registered on Russian approval and trust polls in the past, but no longer.
Four recent events elevated Navalny from a pesky irritation to a formidable opponent of the Kremlin, who must now be isolated.
The first is the attempted poisoning of Navalny on Aug. 20, widely covered by international press and Russian social media. This was followed by Navalny’s telephone-scamming of one of his poisoners into a confession, the recording of which went viral on social media. The Russian people now know that the Kremlin routinely uses political murder to get its way.