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People and Planet: Alexei Navalny’s courage is eternal

I first became aware of Russian opposition leader, lawyer, activist and political prisoner Alexei Navalny after there was an attempt in 2020 to poison him with a Soviet-era novichok agent by the Russian government. He spoke openly about this in the 2022 documentary “Navalny,” which was produced by HBO Max and CNN Films. In the documentary, he discussed the attempt on his life with the willingness and ease of a man who has already accepted he will die for his cause. 

According to the Russian jail in the Arctic Circle where Navalny was serving his sentence, he died Feb. 16. 

As of 11:42 a.m. on Feb. 21, Navalny’s mother has seen his body and has thus confirmed his death, the cause of which remains obscure. The prison claimed he “felt unwell” after a walk, lost consciousness and died. Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalny, said she did not believe the claim because it came from the Russian state, and suspicion grew almost immediately around the world.

It is more than likely that Navalny was murdered by the Russian government for his steadfast dedication to the liberation of the Russian people from an authoritarian and often deceptive government. However, his memory will live on longer than Russian President Vladimir Putin could ever dream of.

Only six months ago, the leader of the Russian mercenary Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was killed in a plane crash with few details released. Prigozhin had once been close to the Kremlin, doing the dirty work for Putin. Maybe Navalny was one of his coming tasks to deal with. Still, as Wagner fought in Ukraine, the once-loyalist Prigozhin became critical of Putin. Given his high standing in the Russian government, this made him a major threat. Suddenly one of Putin’s most devoted janitors met the same fate coming to his most outspoken dissenter. 

Navalny and Prigozhin are not outliers in their untimely and seldom explainable deaths. Famously, Putin’s critics have high rates of imprisonment based on purposefully vague anti-terrorist and anti-extremism laws. For every Prigozhin and Navalny, there are countless other everyday people in Russia who have disappeared or have been arrested for public displays of dissent. For each of these people, there is a family waiting for answers they may never receive. 

Putin has proven time and again that his dedication to the oppression of his people and his need to control public discourse will drive him to no end. Navalny had an understanding his work would kill him – he escaped an attempt on his life and he received a sentence of 19 years in a penal colony wrought with allegations of systematic abuse in the Arctic Circle. Yet, his commitment to fighting for the freedom of the Russian people never faltered.

Navalny leaves behind his wife and two children, Darya and Zakhar. He leaves behind a ruthless leader who will pay for his crimes one day. But he also leaves behind a world that will remember him forever as a hero of otherworldly fortitude and bravery.

Megan is a junior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note the views expressed in this column do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk to Megan? Email her at

Megan Diehl

Assistant Opinion Editor

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