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Alexei Navalny's Last Stand

By James Li and Adrian Tomaszewski Apr. 3, 2024

The receiver of an office phone, the lining of some clothes, a steamy cup of tea—each one of these items can be poisoned at any moment by Russian-made polonium or Novichok poisons. This constant fear of death plagues anyone who dares criticize Vladimir Putin’s regime, as exemplified by Alexei Navalny, who reportedly died of Sudden Death Syndrome on Feb. 16 in a Russian penal colony. His death, coming a month before the Russian general elections in which current president Vladimir Putin is running virtually unchallenged, has raised suspicions of foul play. 

Kayla Choi art

Alexei Navalny began his political career through the anti-Putin Yabloko party in 2000. As part of Yabloko, he experienced his first significant pushback by the regime when a series of his televised debates on a state-run news channel were censored. In 2007, he established the Anti-Corruption Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to exposing corruption in the Russian government. In the 2013 election for the mayor of Moscow, Navalny gained almost 30% of the vote despite facing a likely rigged election, complete censure and manufactured embezzlement charges by the government. He also tried to run in the 2018 Russian presidential election but was stifled by trumped-up corruption charges.

Putin’s United Russia Party has dominated Russia’s political structure. In many elections, only government-sanctioned parties are allowed to run, ballots are tampered with and non-Putin voters are intimidated, Reuters reports.

Knowing he could not win in unfair elections, Navalny resorted to exposing government corruption and organized various protests against electoral fraud,

leading to himself being jailed over ten times.

“Navalny’s actions show that opposition to the Russian government is possible and that Putin is not just some all-powerful dictator who can silence any of his enemies,” Junior Kaleo Gonzalez said. 

Beyond legal attacks, Navalny also suffered physical attacks. When campaigning, disinfectant had been thrown at his face, temporarily blinding him. On a flight in August 2020, Navalny fell rapidly ill, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing to provide him with medical attention. He was flown to Berlin, where doctors concluded that he was poisoned by a Soviet-era nerve agent. Upon his recovery, Navalny accused the Russian government of an attempt on his life. 

Navalny later returned to Russia and was immediately detained and charged on counts of corruption, embezzlement and extremism, triggering hundreds of anti-corruption and pro-democracy protests. He was soon transferred to an Arctic penal colony, where he remained until his death.

On Feb. 16, Navalny went out for a walk while feeling ill and died for an unknown reason, according to prison authorities. His body was not released to his family until 10 days later, raising suspicions that it was tampered with. His mother and other supporters have not ruled out foul play, even outright accusing the Kremlin of “murdering” Navalny. The lack of information provided about the cause of death also sparked controversy. Though every meter of the prison is covered in cameras, no evidence has been published regarding his final moments. 

“Navalny’s death is a clear show of Putin's totalitarian rule. If he can get rid of any prospective political opponents, it removes any doubt of him remaining in power for the foreseeable future,” Senior Eugene Marsavin said.

While Navalny was Putin’s largest and most outspoken opponent, his death has not led to the death of the opposition movement. Throughout Russia, thousands arrived to mourn Navalny during his funeral in Moscow, even as many processions and memorials were silenced or removed. Navalny’s wife has vowed to continue his work and his organizations have continued to operate without him. Perhaps the most important thing Navalny left behind, however, is the torch of hope in the hearts of the Russian people for a better life under a fairer and just government.


About the Contributors

James Yu

staff writer

James Yu is a sophomore at Leland High School and a staff writer for The Charger Account. During his free time, he's obsessing over Speech and Debate, an active Boy Scout, and hanging out with friends.

Adrian Tomaszewski

staff writer

Adrian Tomaszewski is a junior at Leland High School and is a staff writer for the Charger Account. During his free time, he enjoys swimming, cooking, listening to music, ranting about politics to unsuspecting victims, and playing video games.

Kayla Choi


Kayla choi is a senior at Leland high school and an artist for Leland journalism. she likes listening to gidle, wave to earth and dpr ian :)

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