In my 2012 book, The End of Leadership, I wrote:
Alexei Navalny is a sign of the times. Navalny is a lawyer by training, based in Moscow, whose website reaches between one and two million people a day. While his website was originally intended to expose corruption in business, more recently he has exposed corruption in government – sometimes to great effect…. [But] caution is in order. Putin shows his enemies no mercy…. [Still] because the levels of fraud, bribery, and outright theft in Russia are so famously high, Navalny has had some leeway. [Moreover] by now he has a network in place. If anything happens to him, his work will continue.
And so it has – his work has continued. And so, remarkably, has he – he has continued. Five years later, Navalny remains at the forefront of Russian dissent, arrested again this weekend for spearheading the largest wave of unsanctioned protests in Russia since 2012. This weekend’s protests were, moreover, not only in Moscow, but in hundreds of towns and cities across Russia, from Vladivostok in the East to the so-called window on the West, St. Petersburg. Astonishing!
Navalny’s willingness to disobey authority, and thereby put his life at risk, is singular. He has repeatedly been hauled into court. Employees of his Anti-Corruption Foundation have been arrested and their offices ransacked. And he is regularly denounced by the Kremlin as a widely-reviled nuisance and provocateur. All this in a climate in which Putin’s political opponents incline to be murdered or otherwise dispatched.
Notwithstanding the threats against him, Navalny is openly charging Putin’s prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, with corruption. Additionally, Navalny has already declared that in the 2018 Russian election, he will run against Putin for president. This is not, then, a time to celebrate anything – not even signs of Russian resistance to overweening power and deep-seated corruption. But, it is impossible not to be struck by one man’s courage against overwhelming odds – and to wish him safekeeping. Brave, brave leader along with brave, brave followers – more than one thousand of whom on Sunday were taken into custody.