Alexei Navalny, a Russian lawyer and fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is a face many people have become familiar with. Navalny’s social media posts that warn of the corruption of Putin’s United Russia party have gone viral and he has amassed millions of Russian followers on his platforms. Navalny even has his own Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) that has consistently made accusations of official corruption within the Kremlin.
In August of 2020, Navalny was on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow, when he suddenly collapsed as the plane flew over Siberia. The plane was forced to make an emergency landing and he was taken to a hospital in Omsk to be treated. Russian officials were persuaded by a German-based charity to allow Navalny to be treated in Berlin instead of Omsk, due to suspicion about Navalny being poisoned. Eventually, it was discovered through German military testing that Navalny had been poisoned using a Novichok nerve agent. The Kremlin denied this finding and any accusations that they were connected to the incident.
Navalny remained in Berlin for months while recovering from the attack that nearly took his life. Upon his arrival back to Moscow, he was immediately arrested on January 17, 2021. On February 2, Navanly was again arrested on the basis of failing to report to Russian police throughout 2020, as this was considered to be a violation of his parole. His legal team felt as though this charge against him was ludacris, as the Russian police were notified of his stay in Berlin and should not penalize him for being in a coma as a result of the poisoning incident.
The European Court of Human Rights adamantly opposed the jail time Navalny received in February, stating that it would put his life at risk. The Russian government refused to accept the ruling of their initial charge as flawed, and proceeded to jail Navalny. From that point on, he went on a hunger strike, claiming that authorities from his penal colony in Vladimir failed to provide him with adequate medical treatment. His hunger strike ended on March 31, when he was finally granted treatment.
On April 29, Navalny appeared via videolink in a courtroom appeal hearing against a defamation conviction. During his appeal he spoke openly about his experience in the penal colony and his hunger strike for the first time. Navalny made comments about his weight, saying, “I looked at myself. I’m just an awful skeleton. Last time I weighed 72 kilos I was probably in the seventh grade.” His lawyer went on to add that he weighed 94 kilograms in January when he first arrived back in Moscow from his hospital stay in Germany.
Supporters of Navalny were extremely concerned about his health during the hunger strike and medical tests concluded that Navalny was at risk for renal failure and heart complications because of extremely low levels of potassium in his bloodstream. Navalny joked about this concerning medical discovery, saying that since Novichok did not kill him, he was not concerned that potassium deficiency would.
Navalny also spoke extensively about Putin, making sure to use his public appearance as a way to promote his political narrative. In reference to the anti-government protests that occurred during his hunger strike, Navalny said, “your king is naked, and more than one little boy is shouting about it — it is now millions of people who are already shouting about it. It is quite obvious. Twenty years of incompetent rule have come to this: there is a crown sliding from his ears.” He also added “your naked king wants to rule until the end, he doesn’t care about the country, he is clung to power and wants to rule indefinitely.”
Additionally, Navalny made a point to direct his frustration towards the prosecutors, to which he told “you are all traitors. You and the naked king are implementing a plan to seize Russia, and the Russians should be turned into slaves. Their wealth will be taken away from them, they will be deprived of any prospects, you have implemented that plan.” He proceeded to tell the judge presiding over the case that she, too, is a traitor.
Photo source: CNN