Alexei Navalny: Russian Government Relegated him to Death in Prison

Alexei Navalny, a leader of Russia’s opposition movement, has died mysteriously in prison. There is growing speculation in the United States and Europe that the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin was involved in the alleged murder of his political foe.

Navalny had been held in an Arctic Circle prison after being convicted of establishing an extremist group, among other charges. He reportedly lost consciousness after a walk and later died. Russian authorities have said the cause of death is under investigation.

Was proper, adequate health care provided in the prison, which is located in an extremely cold environment? Were necessary lifesaving measures taken? It is highly doubtful. It is only natural that the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven industrialized nations expressed outrage and demanded that Russia fully clarify the circumstances of Navalny’s death. The Japanese government should also separately state its opinion.

There have been a number of killings under Putin’s government of such people as journalists who investigated corruption and an opposition party leader who criticized the authoritarian rule.

It is still fresh in the mind that Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of a private military company, died in a plane crash last year after he rebelled against the Russian government. The loss of yet another figure opposing the government sends a shiver down the spine.

Navalny was symbolic of the anti-government movement, having exposed the vast wealth accumulated by Putin and other senior officials. Four years ago, Navalny fell critically ill in an attempted poisoning believed to have been plotted by the Kremlin and survived after receiving medical treatment in Germany, but he chose to return to Russia.

Even from prison, Navalny had sent messages through his lawyer in which he opposed Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and called on the Russian public to vote for a candidate other than Putin in the upcoming presidential election in March.

It is not surprising that the government believed that the death of the influential Navalny would help stabilize Putin’s rule. Unless it can provide a rational explanation for the circumstances of his death, it will not be able to dispel suspicion that it was involved in his alleged murder.

In the upcoming Russian presidential election, a former lower house member who opposes Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has been blocked from running because of alleged flaws in the procedures related to his candidacy. Forces critical of Putin have been eliminated at every turn.

Major media outlets in Russia are under the government’s control, and opposition parties are essentially obeying its decisions. An “overwhelming victory” for Putin and his reelection are guaranteed, but he still feels uneasy about the presence of his political opponents. This is likely a sign of the peculiar nature of Putin’s dictatorial system.

During the times of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, many citizens were falsely accused, had their lives ruthlessly taken away or were sent to concentration camps. The current situation in Russia suggests a return to that dark government of terror.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 19, 2024)