Russian President Vladimir Putin is a hard-right capitalist and authoritarian leader. Over the years he has consolidated power by doing whatever is needed to shut down political opponents.
When Alexei Navalny ran against Putin in the 2018 election, building a series of regional campaign offices across Russia while doing it, he became a target. Thanks to political repression, Navalny wasn’t even allowed on the ballot but he gained widespread grassroots support because he refused to back down.
During this time Navalny morphed from an ultra-nationalist to a popular anti-corruption crusader who used his social media skills to expose the theft and corporate crimes of Russia’s born-again billionaires. And despite the uphill battle, Navalny’s supporters began to win regional elections, supplanting Putin loyalists with progressive crusaders. This put Navalny in the crosshairs.
In September 2020, Navalny collapsed while traveling to Moscow from Siberia. He was flown to Germany where doctors determined he was poisoned by the nerve agent Novichok — a favorite of the KGB which Putin directed an arm of in the 1990s.
Navalny spent a month in a coma but survived. Upon waking, he immediately blamed Putin, noting that the nerve agent was only available to the President’s inner circle. The same poison was used in an attack on a former Russian spy in 2018.
The European Union has sanctioned several Kremlin officials, but interestingly, not Putin nor the country of Russia. The attempt to silence Navalny failed. He and his supporters continue to challenge Putin’s autocratic regime.