What is left if not skin and bones? Humor, of course! It makes you wonder what kind of wood Alexei Navalny is made of: after serving two years in one of the worst prisons in Russia, thrown into prison for any reason, the enemy of the people of Vladimir Putin No. 1 still manages to laugh at this … Throughout his diary of a convict, regularly published his relatives, the 46-year-old opponent talks about this daily Gulag of the 21st century, interspersed with “emoticons”. Alarm clock rings eight times a night, watching ad nauseam state propaganda screaming “Glory to the FSB!” ; neon lights burned day and night in his 3 by 2 meter cell; food deprivation; family visits are canceled at the last moment by order of the authorities; 11 sits in an ice-hole for having washed his face half an hour earlier or buttoning his shirt badly …
Copy of Alexei Navalny’s camera displayed in front of the Russian embassy in Berlin, January 24, 2023.
© / afp.com/Tobias SCHWARTZ
In the sadistic armor of his jailers, the anti-Kremlin lawyer endured everything except beating, which was far from rare within the walls of colony IK-6 Melehovo, a four-hour drive from Moscow.
In the hell of a Russian prison
“Why disturb the crowd by beating him up? He still has supporters, even if they no longer speak publicly. -Soviet Russia. “For those whom he cannot hit, the Russian prison has come up with many options,” the activist ironically writes in his diary of December 12. The simplest is to keep a person in a disciplinary unit. “That’s what just happened to me. In prison jargon, we call it ‘hell’. But let’s call it properly: a prisoner with serious personal hygiene problems. Never mind, the most famous convict in Russia uses the treasures of imagination to force unclean “wash and brush your teeth.” The administration does not want to give him winter boots in minus 15 degrees?
The nearly six-foot-tall guy with icy blue eyes weighed about 100 kilograms when he set foot on Russian soil on January 17, 2021, returning from convalescence in Germany after being poisoned by Novichok, a neurotoxin the Kremlin owns. . The police were waiting for him at the exit of the plane. Quick trials and sentences are connected: first three years in prison for violating the conditions of a previous conviction, then another nine years for fraud.
Since the beginning of his detention, Alexei Navalny has been sent to the “mitard” 11 times.
© / Artpress
After two years of hell, Navalny melted away. Rare footage taken during his court hearings testifies to his ordeal: haggard, gray complexion, haggard eyes. Only the enemy personifies the disastrous fate of Russia. The face of condemned freedom. The most influential non-governmental organizations in the country (Memorial, the Helsinki Group) were banned, the harshest critics were killed or imprisoned if they did not escape. Some remain, risking their lives, such as the Nobel Prize-winning journalist Dmitry Muratov or his colleague Alexei Venediktov, convinced that they will do more good in Russia than in exile.
His struggle with Putin, the “crazy grandfather”
“There is no spirit of sacrifice, no fatalism,” Navalny said the day after his arrest. Others would have given up long ago. But Putin’s 15-year-old pet peeve is a tough one. Before languishing in colony IK-6, he led all the battles against the “crazy grandfather” (sic) who tyrannizes his country. In the 2011 legislative and presidential elections the following year, he openly attacked the president’s United Russia party, renamed the “Party of Thieves and Crooks,” and mobilized thousands of demonstrators. In doing so, he created the Anti-Corruption Foundation, whose YouTube channel has tens of millions of views. Ex-president Dmitry Medvedev, the most prominent oligarchs and Putin himself have become hostages of hyper-documented investigations.
Navalny will no longer be out of Putin’s sight. In relation to this man, whose name he never says, the president harbors boundless hatred. “In fact, his troubles began during the 2018 presidential campaign,” recalls Galiya Akerman, “when he began to promote “smart voting” in order to encourage voters to systematically vote for the candidate with the highest chance of winning over United Russia. became dangerous. However, when Putin identifies a personal enemy, he does not let him go. For him, revenge is a dish best served cold.”
The person knows something about it. 2,000 kilometers south of Moscow, former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, elected in 2004 at the end of the Rose Revolution and a fierce opponent of Putin, is paying the price. Imprisoned in Tbilisi for more than a year by a Moscow-influenced regime, his lawyers say he is being tortured from another time: traces of mercury and arsenic have been found in his blood.
Both seem doomed. And there is no large-scale mobilization in the West for these two martyrs, while the attention of Western leaders is drawn to the carnage orchestrated by Putin in Ukraine. From his diary, Navalny stuffs anti-war messages into his diary. But his youthful nationalist commitment and controversial pronouncements on Crimea make him a target for some of Kyiv’s defenders. “Fake trial,” lamented an anti-Putin activist who emigrated to Germany. “Navalny is not my candidate, but any liberal should defend his release,” he pleads. Forced to emigrate, his relatives and his foundation continue to fight “Aleksey” with Putin and the Russian nomenklatura. He is sure of this: sooner or later his tormentor will fall.