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Brief #  105 Foreign Policy

Title: The Prosecution  of Alexei Navalny

By Tim Irwin

February 4rd, 2021

Summary

Alexei Navalny was recently sentenced to three and a half years in prison for violating his probation from a 2014 case in which he was convicted of embezzlement. He violated probation because he was unable to contact his parole officer was because he had been poisoned . The poisoning occurred in Siberia and Navalny was flown to Germany where he was able to recover.  Investigative reporters eventually were able to conclude the poisoning, caused by a military nerve agent,  was carried out by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). Navalny himself says that Vladimir Putin spearheaded the effort.

Alexei Navalny has been a thorn in the side of Putin ever since he came onto the political scene. He has been involved in a multitude of anti-corruption campaigns across Russia. These efforts have led to a number of criminal charges,, levied against him, he most recent and relevant being the embezzlement charge of 2014.

The  European Court of Human Rights ruled Navalny’s  embezzlement trial was a violation of his right to a fair trial. However, after this ruling,  a Moscow  court repeated its’ sentencing, causing Russia’s Central Electoral Commission to bar him from running for president in 2018. Since then, he has led a number of other movements to combat  corruption within Russia’s government, which we believe led  in his poisoning. The Kremlin denies any involvement in the attack.

The poisoning occurred in August of 2020 while Navalny was on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow. The chemical weapon used was a Novichok agent developed by the USSR  during the cold war. It was the same agent as the one used in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer just two years earlier. After being sent to a hospital in Moscow, Navalny was flown to Berlin to get further treatment. On December 29th, 2020, the Russian government a announced that Navalny was wanted on account of violating his probation period. Navalny was undaunted by this announcement, and chose to return to Russia where he was immediately arrested. A court recently has sentenced him to spend 3 years in a Siberian prison camp.

Analysis:

The responses to Navalny’s detainment and subsequent conviction were met with massive backlash both internally and internationally. From the moment he was arrested after touching down on January 18th, there were huge protests in Moscow, resulting in the arrests of over 5,000 people.

The call for his immediate release was echoed throughout the western world, with many countries pledging their support for Navalny. The new Biden Administration has followed suit and done the same. The U.S. Secretary of State has condemned the sentencing and has called for Navalny’s release, along with the many thousands arrested during the protests. The initial poisoning back in August resulted in many European countries placing sanctions on a number of Putin’s inner circle. According to Navalny’s Chief of Staff, Leonid Volkov, this is exactly the type of action needed to produce a desired change within Russia. Volkov has stated that using personal sanctions targeting Putin’s inner circle could incite infighting among the wealthy elites. However, sanctions, unless specific, such as what Volkov is stating, can be harmful to the general population because the government can easily shift the burden to them.

The Biden Administration and the administration’s  National Security Team is currently reviewing the best course of action to take against Russia. Besides Navalny, the review also includes the SolarWinds hack as well as the alleged bounties placed on American troops

Engagement Resources:

https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/navalnys-arrest-is-bidens-first-big-test-heres-how-he-can-pass-it/ – Article detailing specific sanctions.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsAw3WynQJMm7tMy093y37A – Navalny’s YouTube Channel

https://joebiden.com/2020/09/02/statement-by-vice-president-biden-on-the-poisoning-of-alexey-navalny/

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