The extraordinary power struggle between Vladimir Putin and Alexei Navalny
Alexei Navalny was in defiant mood last Tuesday, as he waited for his inevitable sentence. He made a heart gesture for his wife, Yulia, who was sitting at the back of Moscow’s city courtroom. Navalny smiled and shrugged his shoulders. “Don’t be sad! Everything is going to be all right,” he yelled at her. She waved back. Meanwhile, a state prosecutor droned on.
Last week’s sham trial was the latest episode in an epic stand-off between two men for a nation’s future. One is the man in the dock, Russia’s foremost opposition leader, and now a global figure, likened by some to Nelson Mandela. The other is the country’s president of two decades, a former KGB colonel who appears determined to stay in power and to smash a popular revolt against him.
On the face of things, the struggle ended last week with a decisive victory for Vladimir Putin. Navalny was sentenced to two years and eight months in a penal colony. On Friday, he was in court again charged with insulting a war veteran. More criminal cases are likely, with Navalny now in effect a hostage of Putin’s authoritarian regime.
But the Kremlin has been unable to do what it wants most: to break Navalny….
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