In the Shadow of Navalny: The Future of Russian Opposition

Alexei Navalny is certainly synonymous with the fight for justice, but in Russia there are still many brave and daring people who are not afraid of the Kremlin

by Sededin Dedovic
In the Shadow of Navalny: The Future of Russian Opposition
© Alex McBride / Getty Images

On Friday, the tragic death of Alexei Navalny, known as a sharp critic of the Kremlin, took place in a Russian prison. His body was found after he fell ill after a morning walk, where he lost consciousness and efforts by doctors to resuscitate him failed.

This death leaves a void in the field of the Russian opposition and raises the question of the fate of the remaining dissidents in Russia. Navalny was a controversial figure, whose life was marked by the struggle against the authorities and controversies.

His name became known around the world when he survived an attempted nerve agent poisoning in 2020, which he blamed on Russian security services led by President Vladimir Putin. After recovering in Germany, he returned to Russia, where he was arrested and sentenced to prison for violating parole.

He was detained on January 17, 2021 at the Moscow airport upon his arrival from Germany, where he was treated for that attack. He was then sentenced to two and a half years in prison for violating an earlier parole while recuperating abroad.

In March 2022, Navalny was sentenced to nine years in prison for alleged contempt of court and embezzlement. He and his supporters have repeatedly rejected that charge as politically motivated. In August 2023, the court extended his prison sentence to 19 years and sent him to an institution with a stricter "special regime".

Navalny was a symbol of the fight against corruption and authoritarianism in Russia. His courage and determination inspired many, both in Russia and around the world. However, his death leaves a void and raises the question of who will take the lead in the fight for democracy and human rights in the country.

In addition to Navalny, some other names stand out in the Russian opposition who continued to fight against the government despite repression and threats. Ilya Yashin, a Moscow city councilor and longtime activist, was an ally of Navalny and one of the loudest critics of the regime.

Although he was in prison and faced pressure from the authorities, Jašin continued his activism and remained committed to his beliefs.

Ilya Yashin in prison© AFP News Agency / Youtube channel

A Moscow court sentenced Yashin in 2022 to 8.5 years in prison for allegedly reporting on crimes committed by Russian armed forces against Ukrainian civilians in the town of Bucha, near Kyiv.

Jašin was sentenced to 15 days in prison for "disobedience to the police", which he claimed was a fabricated charge. "I am an opposition member, an independent city councilor, a critic of President Putin and an opponent of the war in Ukraine," he said at the time.

Yashin has been an engaged activist of the Russian liberal opposition since the beginning of the 2000s and has actively participated in mass protests against Vladimir Putin several times and attracted public attention after the large protests of 2011-2012.

Another notable name is Vladimir Kara-Murza, who was sentenced to a long prison term for his criticism of Putin and the Russian government. Kara-Murza was known for his courage and steadfastness, despite threats to his own life.

He was found guilty of spreading "false information" about the Russian military and maintaining ties to an "undesirable organization" at the end of a closed-door trial. His sentence of 25 years in prison is one of the heaviest for a prominent opposition figure in recent years, at a time when Russia has been carrying out repression since the beginning of its attack on Ukraine almost two years ago.

Yulia Navalny, wife of the late Alexei Navalny, is also a prominent figure in the Russian opposition. After her husband's death, Yulia publicly accused Putin of the tragedy and promised to continue his fight. Her courage and determination inspired many and gave a new dimension to the fight against the regime.

Yulia Navalny attends the Navalny New York Premiere at Walter Reade Theater© Rob Kim / Getty Images

When an attempt was made to assassinate Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in 2020, his wife Yulia launched an epic battle to save his life.

She entered the fight very bravely and her face, like her husband's, became synonymous with the opposite of Putin. Because of this, Vanity Fair magazine called her the first lady of Russia. Julia did not see her husband for two years.

After his death, she promised to continue his work and accused Putin of his death. His last message to Julia was a Valentine's Day message: "I feel you are with me every second." She graduated from the Faculty of International Economic Relations of the Plekhanov Russian Academy of Economics.

After that, she gained work experience at an international internship. During the summer of 1998, while on vacation in Turkey, she met Alexei Navalny. Three years later, the two said the fateful "I do". They have a daughter, Daria, born in 2001, and a son, Zahar, born in 2008.

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