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Analysis: Navalny will return, but only after the end of Putin's government

The images were moving: people mourning Alexei Navalny lining up on Friday (1st) around the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God, in the Maryino district of Moscow, risking arrest to pay their last respects to a man they call their hero.

Each red carnation carried by a supporter of Russian dissidents can be seen as a small act of resistance in a country where the state has cleared the scene of all political competition. And one of the cries from Navalny's supporters at the funeral – ne prostim (we will not forgive) – seemed directed at Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But the fact that Navalny's funeral was held, after two cruel weeks of bureaucratic delay and official obfuscation, is perhaps a sign of the Kremlin's confidence. His repression of dissent is so complete and genuine political opposition is so marginalized that the event was allowed to take place. Navalny's funeral was the funeral of the Russian opposition movement – ​​for now.

In fact, a large contingent of police officers were present to ensure that the event did not exceed the limits of acceptable protest. The independent monitoring group OVD-Info reported that 91 people were arrested in 19 cities across Russia on the day of Navalny's funeral, far fewer than the hundreds detained on the day of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The full-scale invasion of Ukraine has raised the stakes for public protest in Russia, introducing harsh new criminal sanctions for defaming the country's military. Hundreds of thousands of Russians went into exile, many of whom were part of Navalny's constituency. The person who has assumed the mantle of Navalny's charismatic leadership — his widow, Yulia Navalnaya — is out of the country and does not immediately pose a direct political threat to Putin, who is poised to sail for re-election within two weeks. All this makes Friday's turnout more remarkable, but what future is there for Navalny's form of opposition?

Navalny returned to Russia after recovering from poisoning in 2021, precisely because he wanted to continue to be an active actor in politics. And his brand of digitally engaged activism continued, even as state prosecutors piled up charges against him.

For this he paid the price: whatever the ultimate cause of his death in prison, Navalny's sentence in a remote penal colony north of the Arctic Circle was designed to break him physically and psychologically.

Behind bars, Navalny remained a powerful symbol of resistance, sending messages that mocked the prison administration. Even in death, his sense of humor and knowledge of pop culture came to the fore. His colleague Kira Yarmysh noted that music from an Arnold Schwarzenegger blockbuster was played while his body was resting.

“Alexey called Terminator 2 the best film in the world,” she wrote. “The music for the final scene was played at his funeral.”

To quote the Terminator, Navalny will be back.

“Children hear about heroes in schools, but here we have a real hero who we have been happy to work with over the years,” said his longtime advisor, Maria Pevchikh, in a YouTube live stream on Friday. “Navalny will become a giant figure in Russian history,”

But as long as Putin is in power, the anti-corruption activist's name will not be seen on the streets and squares. So how long Russian schoolchildren will wait for it to get into their history textbooks is a very open question.

Source: CNN Brasil

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