The Malta Independent 19 April 2024, Friday
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TMID Editorial: Navalny’s spirit will live on

Wednesday, 21 February 2024, 09:45 Last update: about 3 months ago

The death of Alexei Navalny reverberated around the world on Friday.

The 47-year-old Russian, described as the main opponent to Russian President Vladimir Putin, died in a prison where he was serving time on charges that he always insisted were politically motivated.

There is a mystery that surrounds his death. His family, and his supporters, are demanding answers from the Russian authorities, but it is unlikely that the truth will ever be known.

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Navalny’s death has deprived the Russian opposition of its most well-known and inspiring politician less than a month before an election that is all but certain to give Putin another six years in power.

It dealt a devastating blow to many Russians, who had seen Navalny as a rare hope for political change amid Putin's unrelenting crackdown on the opposition.

Navalny had been imprisoned since January 2021, when he returned to Moscow after a period of recovery in Germany from a nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin. He received three prison terms since his arrest.

After the last verdict that handed him a 19-year term, Navalny said he understood he was “serving a life sentence, which is measured by the length of my life or the length of life of this regime.”

With authorities offering no more information on the death after the brief initial statement, many Russians speculated about what might have happened to him. Independent Russian outlets released reports attempting to shed light on his death. Some called into question the official narrative — but their reports were not possible to verify.

Russian authorities said that the cause of Navalny’s death Friday is still unknown — and the results of any investigation are likely to be questioned abroad. Many Western leaders have already said they hold Putin responsible for the death.

International news reports read that after the news of Navalny’s death, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said “it is obvious that he was killed by Putin,” while US President Joe Biden had said on Saturday that Washington does not know exactly what happened, “but there is no doubt that the death of Navalny was a consequence of something Putin and his thugs did.”

The Associated Press reported yesterday that the Kremlin dismissed allegations by Navalny's widow that Putin had killed the country’s opposition leader as “unfounded” and “insolent.”

Since Navalny's death, nearly 400 people were detained by police in Russia as they streamed to ad-hoc memorials and monuments to victims of political repression with flowers and candles to pay tribute to Navalny. Authorities cordoned off some of the memorials across the country and were removing flowers at night, but they kept appearing.

Navalny’s plight made an impact across the world, and his death sparked manifestations of support. Here in Malta, tens of people gathered outside the Russian Embassy in San Gwann on Monday, affixing photos of Navalny and lighting up candles in a show of solidarity. Not surprisingly, it did not take long before the photos and candles were removed, in similar fashion to the way that the memorial to assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was continuously under the Joseph Muscat administration.

Likening Navalny’s death to Caruana Galizia’s assassination, Repubblika president Robert Aquilina said Navalny’s spirit and flame will live on, in the same way that the battle against corruption that was started by Caruana Galizia still lives on more than five years after she was killed.

Navalny’s widow Yulia Navalnaya vowed on Monday vowed to continue his fight against the Kremlin.

She urged Russians to rally behind her “to share not only the grief and endless pain that has enveloped and gripped us, but also my rage." She continued: “The main thing that we can do for Alexei and ourselves is to keep fighting. ... We all need to get together in one strong fist and strike that mad regime.”

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