Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny dies in prison

A decade-long effort to take down a so-called ​​"party of thieves and crooks" has left one of Russia’s most prominent opposition leaders dead. 

What happened: ​​A wave of outrage gripped the international community after authorities confirmed that Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny had died in a Siberian prison. He had been jailed since 2021, and was serving a 19-year sentence on extremism charges.

  • Authorities said he fell and lost consciousness, but Western leaders aren’t buying the story. “Make no mistake,” said U.S. President Joe Biden. “Putin is responsible.”

Catch-up: Navalny had become one of the single biggest threats to Putin’s regime after over a decade of outspoken criticism against the president and the country’s ruling party, United Russia. Over the years, he had been subject to repeated harassment and imprisonment. 

  • In 2020, Navalny narrowly survived an assassination attempt after being poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent. He was quickly evacuated to Berlin and hospitalized.

  • Months later, in 2021, he returned home to Russia and was detained for violating parole conditions from a previous conviction in 2014. 

  • Every move against him by Russia only made him more popular. As of late, he had rallied a significant base of international support and millions of YouTube subscribers.  

Why it matters: Next month, Russians will head to the polls to vote in a national election that all but guarantees Putin to win. With Navalny gone and the only other remaining challenger critical of Putin barred from running, Putin’s grip on power will likely extend to another six years in office.—SB