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Opinion and Editorial

KT edit: No room for dissent

Filed on August 24, 2020

Russia has nurtured a system that attacks opposing voices and leaves little room for political maturity

Alexei Navalny's sudden and unexplained illness just weeks before nationwide local elections in Russia is a blow to the country's fragile resistance. Navalny has been the face of opposition in Russia since the last opposition leader Boris Y. Nemtsov was gunned down in 2015 in Moscow. After Nemstov's killing, Navalny emerged as the most prominent critic of Vladimir Putin, building a strong following by exposing corruption among the Russian elite. Consequently, he has been detained and attacked several times by Kremlin loyalists for standing up against the top leadership. Navalny is seen as the most serious domestic political challenge to the regime. The fact that he is barred from running for the presidency and yet was attacked shows there is no room for even the slightest  political dissent in Russia. Navalny's sudden illness point at a number of similar cases over the years.

Former Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko died in 2006 after drinking tea mixed with polonium. In 2018, the British government linked Russian military agents to the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK. There are many other such cases, and the latest one involving Navalny is filtered through this prism.

The incident comes at a time when democratic upheaval is rocking Belarus and protests continue in Russia's far east. Political terror hinders the possibility of political stability when dissent should necessarily be countered with debate. Yet, the regime in Russia has nurtured a system that attacks opposing voices and leaves little room for political maturity. It doesn't come as a surprise why many people simply believe unsubstantiated claims that yet another opposition leader has been poisoned.


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