The Kremlin’s Unsurprising Brutality, Daily Brief February 20, 2024

Daily Brief, February 20, 2024


Alexei Navalny’s death in prison is a stark reminder of the lawless barbarity of Vladimir Putin’s dictatorship.

No one needed any reminding.

That the Kremlin bears responsibility for the Russian opposition leader’s death is as obvious as it is grim. For years, they persecuted Navalny viciously and imprisoned him on politically motivated charges.

He’d been behind bars since he returned to Russia in 2021, following medical treatment after surviving a poisoning attempt the year before. In 2023, authorities invented additional charges, and they sentenced Navalny to 19 more years in prison. They confined him in punishment cells for most of the time he was in custody, including in the days before his death.

With every step the Kremlin-controlled courts and other authorities took against Navalny, their intent was clear: to ensure the opposition leader remained incarcerated and isolated as long as possible.

Only, their plan didn’t quite work. Their non-stop injustice didn’t silence Navalny, and he remained a thorn in the Kremlin’s side. Just a couple weeks ago, he called for a creative protest at next month’s presidential “elections” show in Russia, hoping people would appear at polling centers en masse at the same time to express discontent with Putin’s dictatorship.

You may say Navalny’s fate is unsurprising – in fact, he more or less predicted it himself, sending a message to his supporters, and to all Russians, in 2022 about what they must do in the event of his death: Youre not allowed to give up.

And you can say Navalny’s death in prison tells us nothing we don’t already know about Putin’s regime. What can anyone expect from the authorities behind the imprisonment of opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, the persecution of human rights hero Oleg Orlov, and countless other moves to crush all criticism and dissent in recent years – and for many years before, too.

The murder of Russian investigative journalist and human rights defender Anna Politkovskaya in 2006 was an early warning of what Putin’s Russia was becoming.

And the families of civilians slaughtered by Russia’s years of bombing in Syria or in its atrocity-ridden invasion and occupation of Ukraine – they need no further convincing of the inhumanity at the core of the Kremlin’s actions. Nor does the International Criminal Court, which has issued arrest warrants for Putin and another government official for mass child abductions in Ukraine.

However, the fact no one is surprised by Navalny’s death in Putin’s dictatorship, does not make it any less appalling.

The only question really is: How many more lives will be lost to the Kremlin’s barbarity, how many more will have to suffer before the victims start seeing justice?