Alexei Navalny returned to Moscow five months after being poisoned with nerve agent Novichok and receiving treatment at a Berlin hospital, and landed straight into prison. At the airport authorities detained Navalny, the opposition leader and most prominent Kremlin critic.
Interestingly, now for over a decade, Vladimir Putin has refrained from taking his name, mostly referring to him as ‘that gentleman’ and recently ‘patient’, after he was poisoned by suspectedly FSB agents. Logically, the act is deliberate for not giving Navalny media space and free advertising. But it also indicates the rivalry that has taken up to be personal and Putin’s deep understanding that Navalny is nowhere near backing down from exposing Putin, even after his near-death threat by recent poisoning or even prison.
Even being in Moscow’s infamously notorious jail, Matrosskaya Tishina, has not tamed down Navalny and he is continuing to be a danger to Putin’s position and reputation. Navalny’s team have initiated a gigantic investigation into Putin’s wealth on Tuesday. This includes his £1 billion palace on Black Sea which is claimed to be built for the Russian controversial and equally ‘untouchable’ president. Navalny has called it “the biggest bribe in history”.
Navalny’s team has researched and released blueprints and details of the manor. Then the team poked the bear saying that now that architecture has been revealed, Putin who is known to be obsessed with safety, will have to abandon the palace.
Navalny is famous for never backing from publicly attacks Putin directly. During 2011-2012 protests, Navalny had called him a ‘thief’ and his party United Russia a “party of crooks and thieves”. Putin has been called as the biggest existential threat to Putin and his government.
Zhanna Nemtsova, daughter of opposition leader Boris Nemtsova who was murdered, writes, “Putin is no longer afraid of western sanctions, critical statements and the demands of European and American politicians for further isolation. For him the stakes are too high – he knows that Navalny is capable of overthrowing his regime.”
Over the years Navalny has proven to be a crowd pleaser and a good approachable leader to that. He is an excellent speaker and enjoys being on stage, interacting with people, a leader during protests and with a very effective presence, a tech-savvy young campaigner with whom youth feel connected. These all qualities are in contrast to Putin, something that fears Kremlin. His courage has always been the talking point internationally, something which he again highlighted as he returned to Moscow on Sunday after fighting for his life in Germany post poisoning.