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Navalny Is Dead

For the last decade or so, there has been no greater thorn in the side of Vladimir Putin than journalist and activist Alexey Navalny. He worked tirelessly to bring light to the (substantial) dark side of Putin's reign (which is just weeks away from being extended to a fifth term in office). For one example of Navalny's work, see this piece, entitled Putin's Palace: The History of the World's Largest Bribe, which documents, in detail, a staggering $1.3 billion in grift executed in one fell swoop.

If there's ever a follow-up to Profiles in Courage, Navalny better get a chapter. In fact, he really ought to get his own volume. Just challenging Putin, even from abroad, is an excellent way to "accidentally" fall out of a window, or to end up with a cup of polonium tea. But Navalny's spine was steely enough that, even after he knew he was public enemy #1 in Russia, and even after he had been subject to poisoning, and even after he knew arrest was inevitable, he returned to Russia. That was in 2021; he completed and posted the above video just days before surrendering himself.

Since then, Navalny has been in a Russian prison. There's no such thing as a "good" Russian prison, or even a "tolerable" one, but he was in one of the worst, in cold, cold Siberia. In theory, he was there to serve a 5-year sentence. In reality, it was almost certain to be a life sentence, and Navalny knew it. Yesterday, it became so, as the Russian government announced his death at the age of 47. The cause is unknown, but in a video appearance on Thursday, Navalny looked perfectly healthy. So, it's probably not "natural causes."

That said, there is some reason to believe that Putin did not order the (probable) execution, and that someone down the chain of command took matters into their own hands. This is not great PR for the Russian leader, given that he's trying very hard right now to project an image of "he's not so bad" in the United States right now (hence, for example, the interview with Tucker Carlson).

The worst case scenario for Putin is that this becomes an international scandal, along the lines of what happened with Jamal Khashoggi, rallying anti-Russian sentiment in the U.S., and breaking the logjam on Ukraine funding. We do not know if that is what will happen; we only know that it could happen. At very least, one hopes that this incident will serve to convince anyone and everyone that Carlson is something that begins with "t" and ends with "raitor." (Z)

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