Alexei Navalny, prisoner in Russia and perhaps Vladimir Putin’s fiercest domestic critic, called for more protests of the war in Ukraine to take place in Moscow and other cities on Sunday.
“…the most important people on the planet are those who went out in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other cities and will go to anti-war rallies again,” read Navalny’s Instagram post Friday morning (translated using Yandex Tranlsate). “The people of Russia will stop the mad maniac Putin the fastest now if they oppose the war.”
Navalny went on to decry the Kremlin’s egregious misrepresentation of the war, including Putin’s reports of only 498 Russian troops killed to date, and Ukrainians greeting Russian tanks with flowers. He also made reference to recent polls that show support for the war is already waning. Those polls, conducted by his aides, showed a sharp increase in how many Russians saw their nation as the aggressor in the war, jumping from 29% on Feb. 25 to 53% on March 3.
“…You and I have no right to stop this exhausting marathon,” Navalny continued. “And you need to go to anti-war rallies every weekend, even if it seems that everyone either left or was scared. Even if you are one on one, you are the one to join. You are the foundation of the movement against war and death. You are the most important person on the planet.
Navalny closed simply with: “March 13, 14.00, the main square of your city.”
Navalny knows better than anyone the grave nature of what he is asking of the Russian people, as he has endured being Putin’s political opponent for years. Navalny has been the face of opposition to the Kremlin for years now, which has put a target on his back, as well those of his political allies. Navalny survived being poisoned by the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok, in August of 2020. Despite the damning evidence to the contrary, Moscow denied responsibility for the attempted assassination.
Alexei Navalny is currently serving a three-and-a-half year sentence stemming from a conviction for embezzlement. Navalny has maintained the charges are “completely fabricated” and politically motivated, and even U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has referred to them as “dubious.” His confinement was suspended, but he was incarcerated again for violating terms of his release (he failed to meet with his parole officers while in the coma caused by his poisoning).
To further the transparent and appalling miscarriage of justice, Navalny has recently been in court again, facing 15 more years in prison for more embezzlement charges. Navalny has been consistently defiant and used his court appearances as a sounding board to take shots at Putin and Russian leadership rather than attempt any sort of lawful defense.
“You’re going to increase my term indefinitely. What can we do about it?” he said in his court hearing last month. “The activities of people are more important than the fate of one individual. I’m not afraid.”
Moscow has been particularly harsh in cracking down on political dissenters and independent media over the past couple of months, aiming to silence unfavorable commentary since well before the invasion of Ukraine began. As part of this crackdown, Navalny and eight of his closest allies were classified as terrorists in January. OVD, an independent Russian humans rights group, puts the current number of Russians incarcerated in anti-war protests since Feb. 24 at 13,915.
Navalny has encouraged civil disobedience long before this, saying at one court appearance last year: “They can’t arrest the whole country…” Combined with the significant added impetus of anti-war sentiment, Navalny’s call to action bears watching, as the potential for significant civil unrest in Russia appears to be growing.
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Feature image: Sandboxx News composite, photos via Wikimedia Commons and Instagram