On February 16, 2024, the Federal Penitentiary Service of the Russian Federation announced that Alexei Navalny died in a correctional facility.

From the perspective of Ukrainians, Alexei Navalny cuts a divisive figure. On the one hand, he criticized Putin’s regime, but on the other hand, he played along with the Kremlin’s rhetoric about Ukraine. From the perspective of the West, which keeps trying to find “good Russians” and establish a political dialogue with them, Navalny was a symbol of the Russian opposition and the biggest threat to current authoritarian regime. It is likely that the Kremlin officials also saw an existential threat in Navalny. First, they banned him from participating in the elections, then they tried to kill him, and finally they put him in prison, and he never made it out alive.

The murder or forcible death of an “opposition” politician goes to show once again that Russia is no longer a democratic state, and Putin’s regime is mortally afraid of losing control over the political process.

Therefore, the Kremlin follows in the footsteps of Hitler’s Nazi Germany by cleaning up the domestic political field and getting rid of imaginary “enemies”.

What the Kremlin says

Representatives of Western community laid the whole blame for Navalny’s death on Putin’s regime and expressed their concern over the possibility that the murder of yet another oppositionist will give the Russian dictator a sense of impunity and invincibility.

On the other hand, the Kremlin sought to minimize the negative impacts of Navalny’s death, which could cause harm to its public image, primarily by way of portraying it as a common occurrence. Members of the Federation Council called it an “accident” and said that there was no point in “causing harm to Navalny’s health”. In his turn, Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov urged everyone to follow all “procedures” and wait for the medical specialist’s opinion.

At the same time, Russian official propaganda began to shift the responsibility for Navalny’s death onto “the collective West”. The Kremlin opted for the tactics of information attacks aimed at exposing the West’s alleged interest in the demise of the opposition leader.

For example, State Duma deputy Mikhail Delyagin accused Western security services of committing a murder and suggested that Navalny could be used as a sacred sacrifice to justify the “theft” of frozen Russian assets. Meanwhile, chairman of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin put the blame directly on NATO Secretary General, the US leadership, Scholz, Sunak, and Zelensky. He said that Navalny’s death is beneficial to Washington and Brussels because they are allegedly losing the war in Ukraine, so they are trying to cling onto power, seize Russian gold & forex reserves and destroy Russia.  

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation referred to Western leaders’ reaction to Navalny’s death as a manifestation of hypocrisy, cynicism and unscrupulousness. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the actions of the West were pre-planned. The Kremlin propagandists put forward even more absurd “arguments” claiming that Western politicians needed to draw public attention away from Putin’s “resonant interview” with American journalist Tucker Carlson and the seizure of Avdiivka by the Russian army.

What is the Russian liberals’ stance on Navalny’s death? 

Representatives of Russian “opposition” camp accused Vladimir Putin of murdering Navalny. They said that Navalny’s death is a great loss for their resistance movement. At the same time, the majority of Russian “liberals” made no mention of the war in Ukraine in their statements.

Yulia Navalnaya stated that she will start her own political career and continue her husband’s legacy together with other members of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (ACF), including Leonid Volkov and Maria Pevchikh. On February 19, she met with the President of the European Council Charles Michel to discuss “the development of democracy in Russia”. In his turn, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said that the new package of sanctions against Russia for violating human rights will be named after Alexei Navalny.

As we can see, Navalny’s associates are using every possible means to draw attention to their activities amid the crisis of anti-Putin resistance movement. In particular, members of the ACF called on Russians to send them any information about Navalny’s death and those responsible for murdering him, as well as publish videos from surveillance cameras installed in the prison and sign a petition on “Change.org” demanding the immediate release of Navalny’s body to his family.

At the same time, the so-called “oppositionist” and the leader of Libertarian Party of Russia Mikhail Svetov assigned blame to Ukraine for “failing to become a springboard for the advance of Russian culture and Russian opposition forces”. In addition, he said that Navalny’s death will lead to catastrophic consequences because the Western countries will stop supporting Ukraine after realizing that the Russian Federation no longer has a “substitute candidate” and a restraining force that can stand up to Putin.

According to another “oppositionist” Maksim Katz, Navalny showed us the right way to fight against the regime: he “used only legal methods of struggle and wasn’t planning to shoot at anyone, all he wanted was to become the president and then pardon all those who put him in prison”. Furthermore, Katz is convinced that the sanctions introduced in 2022 merely help Putin strengthen his grip on power and at the same time prevent the Russian opposition from working efficiently.

In the context of “Putin’s re-election”, Mikhail Khodorkovsky said that the presidential vote scheduled for March 17, 2024, presents Russian citizens with an opportunity to express their protest against Navalny’s murder by writing in his name on a ballot. Boris Nadezhdin, who was banned from running in the “election”, confined himself to expression of condolences to the family of murdered politician. He said that he is not ready to discuss this topic at the moment, but will “work to ensure that Russia is free”.

Furthermore, Nadezhdin urged the Russians to refrain from boycotting the election and go to the polls even in the absence of a candidate representing their interests. The aforesaid is yet another testament to the fact that his potential nomination for the presidency is just a trick used by the Kremlin to legitimize the election process.

In summary, the majority of representatives of the Russian “opposition” blame the state authorities for murdering Navalny, and yet they don’t call for a change in the methods of their struggle against Putin’s regime. Their activities are still limited to information campaigns, demonstrating a lack of understanding of the catastrophic consequences of Russian aggression for the world security architecture.

The assassination of Navalny in the run-up to presidential election goes to show just how brutal and unlimited Putin’s power is.

Ukraine and the West need to get rid of illusive hope for hypothetical agreement with the dictator, whose strategy for maintaining power is based on bloody special operations and the elimination of opponents.

The liquidation of Navalny and a long list of other crimes committed by Putin’s regime should prompt Western countries to unite their forces in the fight against Russian aggression, in particular, by means of increasing the military capabilities of Ukraine’s Armed Forces rather than search for new “liberals” in the hope of achieving a democratic change of power in Russia.

Specially for  Ukrainska Pravda