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Russia Will Honor Navalny Someday

Although the circumstances surrounding Alexei Navalny’s sudden death point directly to Kremlin culpability, there is little doubt that his legacy will live on, instilling fear in President Vladimir Putin’s corrupt regime. No other opposition figure has been as effective at inspiring ordinary Russians.

STOCKHOLM – We may never know exactly how and why Alexei Navalny died in the remote Arctic penal colony where he was detained. The communiqué that Russian officials issued within two minutes of the popular opposition leader’s reported time of death will never be believed, and the delay in releasing his body to his mother only adds to the suspicion.

Still, we can say for certain that were it not for the Kremlin, Navalny would be alive today. After trying to kill him with a sophisticated nerve agent a few years ago, President Vladimir Putin’s regime had been moving him to increasingly brutal prisons. With Russia holding a presidential “election” this year, it seems that Navalny was deemed too dangerous to keep alive.

I first met Navalny in early 2011, when I was invited to address a conference in Moscow honoring the memory of Andrei Sakharov, the father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb who went on to become an exponent of the liberal opposition in the late-Soviet era. In fact, Navalny was one of the main reasons why I made the trip. He had started to make a name for himself, and we arranged a breakfast that turned into a long conversation.