Status: 01/17/2022 04:31 a.m
Kremlin critic Navalny has been in Russian custody for a year. He has almost disappeared from public view, his network has been broken up. And other organizations are also being silenced.
On January 17, 2021, Alexej Navalny will board a plane to Moscow in Berlin. He flies back to the country where five months earlier they tried to poison him with a nerve agent from the Novichok group. His return seems like a declaration of war – now even more so, Navalny seems to want to say.
“I’m going to detention now”
In Moscow, supporters from all over Russia are waiting at the airport. Navalny has built a nationwide network of supporters. Ksenia Fadeyeva, a young woman who at the time was still in charge of the Navalny staff in Tomsk, Siberia, was also waiting at the gate. “I don’t know, but I hope we can welcome Alexej and he can just go home,” she says.
But it turns out differently. Navalny is arrested at the airport and stays overnight in a police station, where a judge who has come especially for this purpose orders pre-trial detention the next morning. “I’m going to custody now. I tell you: don’t be afraid of anything. You can only be afraid of your own fear,” said Navalny.
Those are the last words Navalny can speak into one of his lawyers’ cellphones. A few weeks later he was sentenced in the first of several trials: two and a half years in a camp for violating the conditions of an earlier suspended sentence during his stay in Germany, where he had been taken while still in a coma after being poisoned.
Trials against Navalny’s team
Since then, Navalny has all but disappeared from the public eye. Out of sight – but not out of mind for his followers. Initially, his network tries to continue without him. But then his organizations are classified as extremist: the employees in the regions, his anti-corruption foundation.
It hits his team, one at a time. Trials for extremism, house arrests, imprisonment. Very many leave the country before it catches up with them.
Fadeyeva, the young woman from Tomsk who wanted to greet Navalny at the airport, has to close down the local regional staff in June. But she wants to stay. She is also a deputy in the Tomsk City Council. In summer she is still cautiously optimistic. “I don’t know, honestly, what’s to come,” she says. “Forecasts don’t work in Russia. Everything is possible and the trend isn’t good right now. But the truth is on our side. And time. Even dictators and those around them are getting old. We have a good chance of surviving them. And in one normal country to live.”
Repression of the media and civil rights activists
Independent media across the country have long been under pressure, and journalists and civil rights activists have been branded “foreign agents.” Shortly before New Year’s Eve, Russia’s Supreme Court even had the well-known human rights organization Memorial dissolved.
A trial for extremism is also underway against Fadeyeva. She faces twelve years in prison. She is not allowed to comment: the court imposed contact restrictions and an internet ban on her. She is only allowed to communicate with her family and her lawyers.