Who is Alexei Navalny?
Alexei Navalny is one of Russia's most prominent opposition leaders, having spearheaded protests against Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has been imprisoned in Russia since 2021.
Face of Russia's opposition
The lawyer-turned-political campaigner has been among the most prominent figures of Russia's opposition to President Vladimir Putin. Navalny came to prominence in 2008, when his blog exposing malpractice in Russian politics and among the country's major state-owned companies came to public attention. Revelations published on his blog even led to resignations, a rarity in Russian politics.
Disputed parliamentary elections
In 2011 Navalny was arrested for the first time. He ended up spending 15 days in prison for his role at a rally outside the State Duma in Moscow. A recent parliamentary election victory for Putin's United Russia had been marred by instances of ballot stuffing, reported by demonstrators on social media. Upon his release, Navalny pledged to continue the protest movement.
Second jail term
After being reelected president in 2012, Putin ordered Russia's Investigative Committee to launch a criminal inquiry into Navalny's past. The following year the campaigner was charged and sentenced again, this time for five years, for alleged embezzlement in the city of Kirov. However, he was released the following day pending affirmation from a higher court. The sentence was later suspended.
Anti-Kremlin platform grows
Despite being embroiled in legal troubles, Navalny was allowed to run in the 2013 Moscow mayoral election. A second-place finish behind Putin ally Sergei Sobyanin was seen as an overwhelming success and galvanized the Russian opposition movement.
Navalny takes to social media
His anti-Kremlin rhetoric led Navalny to be banned from appearing on Russian state-owned television. That forced him to deliver his political message over social media and his blog. His talent for public speaking, punchy use of language and humorous mockery of Putin and his loyalists mobilized a legion of young followers.
In December 2016, the opposition leader announced the formal start of his campaign to run for the Russian presidency in March 2018. However, repeated accusations of corruption, which his supporters say are politically motivated, ultimately barred him from running for public office.
Moscow's biggest protests in 6 years
In February 2017, anti-corruption rallies across dozens of Russian cities led to the arrests of over 1,000 demonstrators, including Navalny. The protests, believed to have been the largest in the Russian capital since 2012, were spurred by a report published by Navalny linking Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to a property empire valued at billions of euros. Navalny was released 15 days later.
Navalny was assaulted and hospitalized in April 2017 after being hit in the eye with a chemical green dye. The attack permanently damaged his right cornea. Navalny accused Russian authorities of stopping him from seeking medical treatment abroad due to the embezzlement conviction against him. He was eventually permitted by the Kremlin human rights council to travel to Spain for eye surgery.
In 2018, Navalny was jailed for 30 days. After his release in September, he faced another 20-day stint. In April 2019, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Russia had violated Navalny's rights by holding him under house arrest for most of 2014 during the Kirov embezzlement case.
In July 2019, only weeks after being released from a 10-day jail sentence, Navalny was again jailed for 30 days for violating Russia's strict protest laws. The opposition leader accused Russia of poisoning him with an allergic agent while in jail.
Raids and frozen assets
Using YouTube and social media, Navalny had amassed a following of millions by late December 2019. Then police raided his Anti-Corruption Foundation headquarters (pictured), detaining him in the process. His staff said officials wanted to confiscate their tech equipment. Just a few months later, in March, Navalny reported that his bank accounts and those of his family members had been frozen.
A plane — and a coma
On August 20, Navalny's spokesperson announced the activist became violently ill during a flight from Siberia to Moscow. The plane made an emergency landing, and Navalny was rushed to a hospital in Russia's Omsk and later evacuated to Berlin's Charite clinic (pictured). Doctors said he was in a coma. Navalny's associates claimed he had been poisoned and pointed to previous attacks on the activist.
Back from the brink
Navalny was taken out of the coma less than three weeks later and was said to be responsive. Not long afterwards, he was posting on Instagram, saying he was slowly regaining strength following weeks of only being "technically alive." The German government said labs in France and Sweden both confirmed that Navalny had been poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok.
Return, arrest, and trial
Navalny had promised to return to Russia and he did so, despite warnings that he would be arrested. He was taken into police custody shortly after arriving in Moscow. The dissident had said he was "not afraid of anything." He was ordered to spend two years and eight months in a penal colony for violating terms of his probation while recovering in Germany from his poisoning.
Further charges and years behind bars
Since being imprisoned in 2021, Navalny has faced even more charges and trials: in 2022, he was sentenced to an additional nine-year term for embezzlement and contempt of court, charges his supporters say are fabricated. Appearing via video from prison during a court hearing this spring, Navalny said he was now being charged with new alleged crimes that would further extend his time in prison.