From the Editors: Below quotes, attributed to Keir Giles - Senior Consulting Fellow, Russia & Eurasia Programme, Chatham House – and Samantha de Bendern - Associate Fellow, Russia & Eurasia Programme, Chatham House - on the death in custody of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny


Keir Giles, Senior Consulting Fellow:

“Nobody should have been surprised by this, least of all Navalny himself. After all, Russia tried to kill him once, and then he chose to go back for more.

“Navalny and his movement have divided opinion since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. It's highlighted the fact that not everybody who opposes Putin opposes the war – and a Russian opposition politician can be far from "liberal". It's perfectly possible to be a Russian who dislikes Putin, but is fully in favour of Russia waging genocidal wars of colonial reconquest.


At one point, Navalny was useful to Russia as a sign that opposition to Putin was tolerated. That usefulness came to an end long ago. And by now, Russia has abandoned any pretence that it is anything other than a repressive regime. Russia is back in its historical comfort zone of murdering opponents at home and abroad without qualms and without a care for international condemnation.”

Russia’s indifference to its international reputation is highlighted by the irony of this news coming immediately after Tucker Carlson’s propaganda tour, lauding it as a progressive, modern state where people would want to live.”

Samantha de Bendern, Associate Fellow:

“Navalny’s death should not come as a surprise. Boris Nemtsov was shot in front of the Kremlin; Putin critic and journalist Anna Politkovskaya was shot on Putin’s birthday; Tax Lawyer Sergey Magnitsky died in Russian prison, to name but a handful of those who have died after criticising or opposing Putin. And yet we are still shocked when Putin’s brutal regime strikes again.

“Allowing him to die so close to the Presidential elections raises a number of questions- including whether Putin is so afraid of Navalny’s traction as the campaign starts in earnest that he had to be silenced for good?


“We also need to ask: could Navalny’s death backfire and finally bring Russians out onto the street? No other prominent death of opposition figures resulted in protests. But the context today is different: Russia is at war in Ukraine, and a new opposition candidate, Boris Nadezhdin, has created an embryonic anti-war movement hungry for change in Russia.

“An optimistic view is that Navalny’s death may inject a new life into Nadezhdin, whose appeal against not being allowed to run in the elections was rejected by the Central Electoral Commission on 15 Feb. and give birth to a real movement. A pessimistic view would see Nadezhdin being silenced, either out of fear or more radical and potentially permanent methods.

“David Cameron is allegedly due to meet Russian FM Sergey Lavrov at the G20 summit in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday (20 March). It will be imperative for him to discuss the fate of Vladimir Kara Murza, a Russian opposition figure and dual Russian-British citizen serving a 25-year prison sentence in a Russian jail, and who has not been heard of since Jan. 29.”

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Comments (2)
Joseph Swanson
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Alexey Navalny was another communist playing pretend to be "russian opposition."
In an interview with Echo of moscow radio station in October 2014, Navalny admitted that the Crimean peninsula had been seized through “outrageous violations of all international norms”, and YET asserted that it would “remain part of russia” and would “never become part of Ukraine in the foreseeable future”.
Under a democratically elected government, “the wonderful russia of the future”, as Navalny liked to call post-putlin russia, would still keep Crimea despite the fact that the annexation was illegal. That is because their policies would have to reflect the will of the russian people and the overwhelming majority of russians wanted Crimea to be within russian borders.

Boris Nadezhdin is no better. He portrays himself as "anti war" but when it comes to Ukraine, he believes russia should be allowed to hold onto the territories currently under russian occupation.

As Volodymyr Vynnychenko, one of the central figures of the Ukrainian national liberation movement in 1917-1919, insightfully noted a century ago, “Russian democracy ends where the Ukrainian question begins”.
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Every dictator falls out of favour and some of them die at their peak of power.

After Putin, the next dictator is guaranteed. That is the history of Russia over the past 200 years.