Putin And Crackdown On Opposition

Putin And Crackdown On Opposition

Russia added to its history of crackdown on opposition against President Putin as opposition leader Alexei Navalny was allegedly poisoned, who later found medical asylum in Germany.

Crux of the Matter

Recent Case
Alexei Navalny, a Russian politician, recently fell ill and was flown to Germany for treatment. Navalny has been a long time critic of President Vladimir Putin, calling the latter “the tsar of corruption”. He also criticized the recent Amendment which allows Putin to contest 2 more times and be the President of Russia till 2036.

Navalny fell ill on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow, and his supporters have claimed that his tea was “poisoned”. He was first treated in Omsk where his flight made an emergency landing after he fell ill, with the Omsk doctors claiming that they saved his life and no poison was detected. However, the Omsk doctors reportedly delayed his “medical evacuation” to Germany by claiming that he was not fit to travel. Navalny’s wife Yulia reportedly claimed that Russian authorities were stalling to make any evidence in his blood disappear. Afterward, the German NGO ‘Cinema for Peace’ funded his flight to Germany, where he is currently being treated in the capital Berlin.

On 24 August, the doctors treating Navalny in Germany confirmed that he was poisoned.

Navalny And Opposition To Putin

  • Navalny was the founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation in Russia.
  • He was arrested in 2011 for urging voters to vote anyone except United Russia (ruling party).
  • He was jailed in 2013 for embezzlement and was convicted a second time in the 2017 retrial.
  • He was placed under house arrest in 2014, for which The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) stated that his rights were violated.
  • The 2017 conviction barred him from contesting 2018 Presidential elections, with several critics labeling cases against Navalny “fake” which were levied only to stop him from contesting elections.
  • He was jailed for 30 days in 2018 for protesting against pension reforms.

World Reaction

  • France assured Navalny of support and offered an asylum if required.
  • Germany assured Navalny of all assistance and called for a “transparent” investigation in the case.
  • British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab stated he was “deeply concerned” over the situation.
  • US Presidential candidate Joe Biden termed the situation “unacceptable”, declaring that he would “stand up to autocrats like Putin” if elected.

Silencing Of Putin’s Opposition

  • Boris Nemtsov (2015)
    Nemtsov occupied the position of ‘First Deputy Prime Minister’ from 1997 to 1998. He died from 4 gunshots in 2015, just hours after gathering a protest against the Russian military involvement in Ukraine.
  • Boris Berezovsky (2013)
    Berezovsky was a businessman who exiled in the United Kingdom after a conflict with Putin. He was a staunch critic of Putin and accused him of getting Alexander Litvinenko, a whistleblower, killed. Berezovsky was found dead in his bathroom in the UK, with initial reports claiming that he committed suicide. However, the Court declared an ‘open verdict’ due to insufficient evidence.
  • Sergei Magnitsky (2009)
    Magnitsky was a lawyer who was later working on a large scale tax fraud case against the Government. He died in 2009 after being assaulted in police custody with no medical aid being provided afterward.
  • Alexander Litvinenko (2006)
    Litvinenko was a KGB agent who later became a vocal critic of Putin after leaving the agency. He had claimed that the Putin government was behind the series of apartment bombings in 1999. He died in London after drinking tea containing Polonium-210 (one of the most radioactive substances).
  • Anna Politkovskaya (2006)
    Politkovskaya was a journalist and staunch critic of Putin, accusing him of making Russia a “police state”. She was murdered in the elevator of her building. 5 convictions of contract killing were made in the case, but the identity of the people who ordered remains unsolved.
  • Viktor Yushchenko (2004)
    The ex-President of Ukraine survived a poisoning attempt reportedly done by Russian agencies after he contested elections against a pro-Russia candidate.
  • Paul Klebnikov (2004)
    Klebnikov was the chief editor of Forbes magazine (Russian edition) who investigated corruption in Russia. Forbes magazine released the top 100 richest people list under him which drew criticism from the Russian Government as the financial details of officials are kept in secrecy. He was shot 4 times outside his office but survived initially. However, he died after reaching the hospital, where the elevator failed and the ambulance carrying him had no oxygen bottles.
  • Sergei Yushenkov (2003)
    Yushenkov was a liberal and free-market politician. He was assassinated just hours after registering his party in the elections.
  • “The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin” is a book by Steven Lee Myers. The book is a narrative of Putin’s rise to power.
  • Tsar is a title used to designate East and South Slavic monarchs or supreme rulers of Eastern Europe. The term is derived from the Latin word Caesar, which was intended to mean “emperor” in the European medieval sense of the term. The first ruler to adopt the title tsar was Simeon I of Bulgaria. 
  • Vladimir Putin scored at least eight goals in an exhibition ice hockey game with former National Hockey League players in 2019. He played on the Legends team alongside Russian hockey stars such as Hall of Famers Slava Fetisov and Pavel Bure.