The end of Navalny, a classic for all Putin's enemies

«The hour The news immediately spread throughout the world, together with a video shot by a passenger, where heartbreaking screams can be heard.” Thus begins the courageous essay dedicated to the main opponent of the Russian regime Navalny Against Putin (Paesi Edizioni, 2021), the work of the journalist and leading expert on Russia, Anna Zafesova, written following the incredible attempt to poison Vladimir Putin's main opponent by the Russian secret services. An illuminating text, because it anticipates both the war that Putin will unleash in Ukraine and the very end of Navalny, targeted by the Kremlin and who has become a dead man walking right from that date.

Navalny was saved from the poisoning, as is known, but his fate is now sealed. The Kremlin wants to silence him and, having failed to do so through poison, it will do so through a court of law that will find the opponent guilty of multiple crimes, including aggravated fraud, sentencing him first to nine and then to twenty years in prison. «Alexei Navalny was a threat to power» comments Zafesova, in reconstructing the path that led Navalny to his death just over three years after his poisoning.

«His organization had become sufficiently branched out to be able to challenge United Russia», President Putin's party, «in at least forty regions of the boundless Russian administrative territory. People stopped him on the street to be photographed with him and kids on the Internet spoke with his jokes, his memes, with his voice. «The good propaganda machine that he had invented was revving up, transforming itself from a virtual game into a media power, and the rain of arrests, indictments, searches and censorships that was intensifying hand in hand with the like it showed that it was on the right path to becoming the only alternative to the regime.”

For this reason, President Vladimir Putin was afraid to even say his name in public. And so, before the local elections in Siberia in September 2020 and a year before the vote for the Duma in September 2021 – where Navalny would have liked to take the decisive step to nominate his movement as the main opposition to the regime – the Kremlin decides to put him silence forever.

Zafesova reconstructs: «In Moscow it is 4.50, in Tomsk it is 8.50. S7 flight 2614 took off from Tomsk less than an hour earlier, and the presence on board of one of Russia's most popular men did not go unnoticed: the numerous photos and selfies that passengers took with Navalny at the hotel bar. airport and on the minibus that takes them to board, help certify that the politician seemed in excellent shape. Commander Vladimir Kuzmin also recognizes the famous opponent in the passenger who passed out in the corridor and requests an emergency landing: “The most probable thing is poisoning”, he says, knowing he is saving a man's life, but unaware that he is changing the history”.

Navalny is safe, for the moment, but he can no longer remain free: «Not after having survived the state poisoning and having openly accused Vladimir Putin of being the instigator» underlines Zafesova, underlining how the president of Russia knew very well that « for a dictator to appear ruthless is not a whim, it is a vital function and a necessity. It is his way of governing, and it must not appear Machiavellian or too subtle: he must send clear and understandable messages to everyone.”

And so today the message reached the whole world very clearly. Anyone who challenges the regime dies. This had already been the case for Yevgeny Prigozhin, oligarch converted to military leader, leader of the Wagner private militia who, after months fighting in Ukraine, in June 2023 had launched a challenge to Moscow and Putin himself, stating that he wanted to overthrow the Russian military leadership. After the attempted coup, he fled to Belarus and on August 23 the plane he was traveling in mysteriously crashed between Moscow and St. Petersburg, shot down by a missile or due to a bomb on board.

Navalny, on the other hand, did not have a militia or a party. If anything, he was a free, transversal hitter who had no labels, but his protest had given courage to those in Russia today who no longer believe in Vladimir Putin's leadership. That's why he was poisoned and imprisoned, that's why he died.

Today, Putin's Russia, the dolphin chosen by Boris Yeltsin's family to guarantee a painless transition, has transformed into an increasingly aggressive and vengeful top-down power center, where the leader's power is total: «A paradox of all dictatorships which contains the seed of their destruction; but after all, if they were capable of negotiating they would no longer be dictatorships” is the opinion of Anna Zafesova.

After eliminating opposition to the elections; after eliminating symbols like Navalny; and even after the failed coup of the Wagner militia, Vladimir Putin knows no more rivals in absolute power than him. And therefore he doesn't have much to fear, other than a palace coup in which the ruling elites and oligarchs replace Putin himself with a new Gorbachev, which is exactly the objective that the West set out to achieve with sanctions and pressure on Russia. And that was also Navalny's aim: to transform Putin from a solution to a problem in the eyes of his own nomenclature, and of his electorate.

But all this has not happened, nor can we any longer hope for the release of Alexey Navalny to symbolize Russia's turn towards democracy. On the contrary, the war in Ukraine rages and the trail of blood from Moscow stretches further towards Europe.