Kremlin worked hard to try to silence the charismatic opposition leader and top critic of Putin Alexei Navalny since the politician declared war on Russia’s “criminals and thieves” a decade ago. The group of activists and his supporters failed to track how many days and nights their leader spent in prison. To them, any charges against him were purely political. So it’s no surprise that on Tuesday, Navalny was sentenced to nine years in a maximum-security prison on fraud charges.
In an exclusive interview, Navalny’s right-hand man and most recognized leader in the opposition, Lyubov Soboltold The Daily Beast that Moscow’s efforts to stem the Navalny movement have failed and her team has a “plan” for Putin as the Russian military continues to do so. attack in Ukraine.
“We continue to act in the new reality of war and we are fully aware that Putin wants to keep Navalny behind bars as long as he continues to rule Russia,” Sobol said in an interview. following Navalny’s ruling on Tuesday. “But we also have a plan: we are growing globally, we are reporting from more countries and more people are listening to us. And if before, we collected and exposed evidence of Putin’s corruption – now we tell the Russians the truth about Putin’s war crimes.”
Sobol, 34, runs the YouTube channel Navalny Live, where she collects and broadcasts videos and photos of events in Ukraine — about captured Russian soldiers, about civilians dying, running away and sleeping in the subway station.
“While the propaganda lied to the Russians about the special operation, our channel’s audience grew by 20 million unique views in the past month, so we now have over 80 million views per month. People follow us, despite the terrible pressure on free internet in Russia,” Sobol told The Daily Beast. “I tell Russian womenmothers, and explained that war would come to every family with a coffin of their stillborn sons. “
Tuesday was a difficult day for Sobol and Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation: the criminal prison colony in the Vladimir region, where Navalny was convicted, did everything to block dozens of journalists from coming to the prison to deliver news about the trial. Most reporters and Navalny followers were not allowed into the courtroom. In addition to the fraud charges, he was found guilty of contempt of court for insulting the judge and a witness.
Navalny, his family and team are preparing for a long prison sentence. Last month, Russia’s only independent television channel, Rain TV, covered Navalny’s struggles for years, saying that authorities “intent to keep Navalny in prison forever” and the leader. The opposition must face fate alone. Two weeks later, Russia banned Rain TV, along with the oldest independent radio station, Echo of Moscow, after introducing a new amendment to the State Duma that would prohibit journalists from covering the war in Russia. Ukraine in any way displeases the Kremlin.
Most of the key members of the Navalny organization, including Sobol, its director Ivan Zhdanov, and Spokesperson Kira Yarmysh have left Russia after facing a series of threats and criminal investigations against them and their loved ones. “Navalny never told us to stop telling the truth, it would be foolish to shut up now,” Sobol told The Daily Beast. “Our plan is to inform the Russians at any cost.”
Authorities did not put Navalny on trial in Moscow, where the corrupt man still has thousands of supporters. Instead, he was tried 69 miles from the Russian capital, in Pokrov’s 2nd criminal district in the city of Vladimir.
“We, the Russians, want to be a peaceful country,” Navalny said in a speech to his supporters from prison last month, as the Russian military launched the first wave of attacks on Russia. cities of Ukraine. “But at least let us not become a nation of fearful and silent people, a nation of cowards, who pretend that they do not notice the aggressive war started by the little tsar. our folly against Ukraine.”
Navalny’s life may seem like a horror movie to many in the West. Russians see this as both a political drama of hopeless martyrdom and an example of courage. Since 2011, when he emerged as a fearless political figure, the police would detain him at most political rallies, raid his offices and confiscate his public works. of his Anti-Corruption Organization. But that never stopped Navalny from turning against the Kremlin, even after opposition lawyers were poisoned, hospitalized, and dragged into jail.
“He knew that Putin’s plan to quickly break up Ukraine had failed.”
Putin never called Navalny by name, calling his opponent “a blogger”. Navalny, on the other hand, had words for the leader on Tuesday: “You can’t imprison everyone. No matter how you ask for 113 years, you will not frighten me or others like me.” He echoed Soblov’s comments about the Navalny movement “going global”.
Although Navalny’s message to the court was strong, he looked thinner than usual in his prison robe on Tuesday.
“Not many people in the West understand how hellish the existence of prisons in Russia is, where they rape and torture people. But the best news for us, his supporters, is that Navalny hasn’t collapsed, his spirit is still very strong,” Sobol told the Daily Beast. “He knows that Putin’s plan to quickly break up Ukraine has failed. And the West, which has always made decisions slowly, but this time they made decisions very quickly and the whole world showed solidarity against aggression in Ukraine.”