Vladimir the Poisoner of Underpants

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Russian President Vladimir Putin present during a meeting in Moscow. Once again, the Russian government has undermined democracy with the Kremlin’s most prominent opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, sentenced to nearly three years in prison after returning from Germany. Now, people have taken to the streets to protest the Kremlin, many accusing President Vladimir Putin of attempting to assassinate Navalny. Photo courtesy of Mikhail Klimentvev/Associated Press.

Once again, the Russian government has undermined democracy with the Kremlin’s most prominent opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, sentenced to nearly three years in prison after returning from Germany. Now, people have taken to the streets to protest the Kremlin, many accusing President Vladimir Putin of attempting to assassinate Navalny. 

In August, Navalny was poisoned with the lethal nerve agent Novichok planted in his underwear. Even before then, the FSB, Federal Security Service, was at Navalny’s tail, following him and his wife on vacation. His wife recorded videos of men following them on their travels whom she found suspicious, believing the men were following them. Navalny was then eventually poisoned and sent to Germany to receive medical help. When he recovered, he named Putin his attempted murderer, or at least the one who ordered for his assassination. He remarked that history would remember Putin as the “Poisoner of Underpants.” That was the type of witty humor he even carried throughout his court trial this week, telling the judge that she didn’t even ask him for his own name. 

The Kremlin sees Navalny as their biggest threat considering that more than 1,000 people were arrested at pro-Navalny protests around Russia after the sentence, adding to the already 5,000 detained on Sunday. There was even a documentary in which Navalny stated that a big palace was being built for President Putin, despite the fact that many in Russia live under poor economic conditions. The film has worsened protests on both sides of the political spectrum with government crackdowns becoming more common and anti-Putin protests becoming more violent. Putin was criticized by Western officials but, as expected, he didn’t care. 

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny shows a heard symbol standing in the cage during a hearing to a motion from the Russian prison service to convert the suspended sentence of Navalny from the 2014 criminal conviction into a real prison term in the Moscow City Court in Moscow, Russia. A prison sentence for Navalny and a sweeping crackdown on protesters demanding his release reflect the Kremlin’s steely determination to fend off threats to its political monopoly at any cost. Photo Courtesy of Moscow City Court/ Associated Press.

Navalny’s imprisonment is very obviously prompted by the fact that Vladimir Putin is a dictator. Even before taking office, Putin was a strong figure in the government as a KGB foreign intelligence officer and later on as prime minister. There has also been clear evidence that Russia had a major impact in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and there was a very recent Russian hack on U.S. government information systems. He has taken little to no recognizable responsibility for putting bounties on American soldiers; a fact that, to this day, has been largely forgotten about. Many of Russia’s youth who advocate for more liberal change are also being ignored despite being the future of the country, their lives being controlled by older people who clearly don’t understand their needs. 

“Many of Russia’s youth who advocate for more liberal change are also being ignored despite being the future of the country, their lives being controlled by older people who clearly don’t understand their needs.”

Russia has a corrupt government; it’s as simple as that. Currently the only way to reform the country is for the protests to get worse, to become more radical; radicals make change happen. Otherwise, Putin will just stay in power. Elections will be held in March 2024 but it is clear to see that there is a likelier chance of Putin winning another term than anybody else getting a chance at the Russian leadership position. With Navalny in prison there’s also no way for him to spearhead his way towards that goal and his younger followers have very little opportunity when the elections can be manipulated. However, Putin can’t ignore Navalny’s revolution forever. He can’t keep acting as if the situation will just disappear on its own. He may have control over Russia right now because of his older followers, but younger Russians just won’t stand for his ignorance any longer. It’s only a matter of time before Putin is forced out of office and Navalny’s sentence might just be the tipping point. 

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