Who is Navalny?
In 2018, Navalny ran for president against the incumbent Vladimir Putin. In August 2020, he was reportedly poisoned, but survived. As the Associated Press notes, Navalny blames the government for this, but “Russian officials have denied any involvement and even questioned whether Navalny was poisoned”. He recovered in Germany, and then returned to Russia, where he was sentenced to prison on contestable grounds.
Some of Navalny’s views are highly problematic, like his stance on immigration. And media outlets rarely mention his far-right past, elements of which he has reportedly failed to renounce. There is also criticism of Western governments and mainstream media obsessing over Navalny while largely ignoring the political persecution and imprisonment of people like Julian Assange.
Many protesters whom Phoenix Media Co-op spoke to on 21 April expressed concern over the lack of due process and corruption within Russia, while not necessarily endorsing all of Navalny’s political platform. They wanted authorities to free him or allow him to see his doctors.
21 April protests
Another protester, Svetlana Makhokhei, is a journalist and someone who has previously worked with Navalny. She stressed that:
I am here… to support him and to support all of my colleagues and all people in Russia to fight against corruption, against Putin’s system and against all this violation of basic human rights.
And regarding what she wanted other countries to do about Navalny’s situation, she said:
They should press the Russian government as much as they can, not only German government, all actually. Then, more people will call Putin and ask every day: ‘Hey, what’s going on with Navalny? Hey, when you will allow at least doctors to check him?’ Then, faster, I hope, he will allow doctor[s] to visit him.
As the Associated Press reports, “Russia’s state penitentiary service has said that Navalny is receiving all the medical help he needs”. At the start of the week, authorities transferred Navalny to a prison hospital. After visiting his client, Navalny’s lawyer said “the situation is only getting worse”.