Alexei Navalny, the courageous political dissenter, was just sentenced to a 3 ½ prison term for not complying with the terms of his probation, which he could not because he was in a German hospital recovering from an attempt to kill him with the poison Novichok, a nerve agent available only to government agencies.
Russian authorities deny any involvement.
Governments across the world have called for his release.
What has Alexei Navalny been asking for?
The freedom for the Russian people to elect who they want.
That is all. And for that he is being punished.
All he has said and fought for, while putting himself in great danger, is that Russians should have a right to choose who is to govern them.
Vladimir Putin, who has been in power since 1999, says No.
No, because he believes he knows what is best for Russians. No, because he likes being president very much – he is now in his 4th term – and he would miss the office if he has to step down. No, because he is convinced he has all the answers for his people and why bother with elections, it is such a waste of time and energy.
Alexei Navalny has dared to disagree. He says Russians are afraid of Putin and insists there is no way forward for the country but to overcome their fears and challenge him.
Of course, Mr Putin could, at any time, take a different position and say that he is willing to face Mr Navalny in an election, and let all Russians decide. He might even win. Russians may prefer to see him be president for life. But that is not what we’re seeing. What we’re seeing is that he would rather not take the chance.
Is he afraid he might lose?
That Alexei Navalny has faced his fears and started a protest movement shows that he is a special person. People like him are a gift to their people and to the world. A gift because they have dared where others have not. So they ought to be supported because their courage will make for a better life for the rest of us.
While he is in prison, someone else needs to step front and take over the leadership of the movement he’s started.
Russians should not stay quiet. Alexei Navalny lives in every Russian.
And every Russian has to find a way to free the Alexei Navalny that lives in them.
We, in the Free World, must do what we can to stand in solidarity with our Russian brothers and sisters.
We, in the Free World, must do what we can to keep Alexei Navalny alive.
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