Alexei Navalny is a real threat to Vladimir Putin

World

Alexei Navalny is a real threat to Vladimir Putin

ANALYSIS | The fragility of the Russian regime is becoming clear

Gideon Rachman

Two years ago, a Russian friend told me he thought Alexei Navalny posed a serious threat to Vladimir Putin. I was sceptical. Russia had weathered the international condemnation and economic sanctions imposed after its annexation of Crimea in 2014. The country had just staged a successful World Cup. President Putin seemed well entrenched in the Kremlin.

But my friend was right. Through his bravery, determination and investigative flair, Navalny has galvanised the Russian opposition. He has survived an attempt to kill him and returned to Russia to face arrest, imprisonment and, possibly, death. His example inspired mass protests across the country over the weekend. Whether Navalny succeeds or fails, he now represents the most dangerous threat Putin has faced in the two decades since he took power.

There have been big anti-Putin demonstrations before. I was in Moscow in early 2012, as thousands took to the streets to protest the Russian leader’s return to the presidency. I was there again last year when there were further anti-Putin demonstrations provoked by the rigging of local elections...

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