Russian Opposition Leader Hospitalized for Suspected Poisoning: The Future or Russian Democracy.

Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny hospitalised for suspected poisoning

Somalilandsun: The Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is unconscious and in intensive care after showing symptoms of suspected poisoning according to his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh . Doctors confirm that he is in a critical state according to the Russian news agency Tass.

Navalny was on a flight from the Siberian city of Tomsk to Moscow when his plane had to make an urgent and unscheduled landing, after he became ill, according to Yarmysh.

Navalny is a leading opposition figure and former presidential candidate who was barred from running.  He frequently calls President Putin’s ruling United Russia party “the party of villains and thieves” and has previously been detained in connection with demonstrations and protests. The referendum held this summer to give Putin the right to remain president until 2036,he equated with a coup.

The controversial vote to amend the constitution and change president Putin’s term limits, potentially allowing him to serve as president until 2036 resulted in a change in the constitution. Critics, among them Navalny have challenged the result, saying that the voting was rigged.

The vote, which did not according to some fulfil the legal standards to be classed as a referendum, saw 77.92% of voters endorse constitutional amendments, and 21.26% voted against after all the ballots were counted.

Hospitalised for suspected poisoning

What has happened to Navalny now is not entirely clear. It could be that he became seriously ill out of natural reasons, but his spokeswoman, who was with him on the plane when he collapsed, says she is sure he was poisoned. According to the Russian news agency Tass, a source at the hospital number one in Omsk says that he is currently being treated for poisoning.

Also last year, Navalny was treated for suspected poisoning. Then he had become suddenly ill during a period of imprisonment.  Officials said at the time that he had received an allergic shock, something that Navalny and other opposition leaders strongly dismissed.

A couple of years earlier, back in 2017, he was physically attacked, and with this in mind, many in the opposition deem it as likely that what happened to him now is actually an assassination attempt.

Those who criticise live dangerously

It is well known that people who openly criticize President Putin and the circle around him live dangerously. The famous journalist Anna Politkovskaya and several other journalists critical of the regime have been murdered and others who had a chance of challenging the regime have been accused of a crime, making them ineligible to run for office or make them less legitimate in the eyes of the public. One of the most vocal Putin critics,  the former chess world champion Kasparov, went into exile, whilst many other oppositional figures had their property seized and sentenced to prison for various crimes that according to human rights organisations are fabricated.

Navalny might not at the moment be a direct threat to Putin and the political elite, however, he still has enough influence to inspire others and arranging protests that might grow in strengths. Perhaps the events currently unfolding in neighboring Belarus is something the Russian regime is trying to avoid. With Navalny out of the way that risk might be seriously reduced.

The reign of Putin, press freedom and the future of Russian democracy
The Russian president Vladimir Putin has been in office, alternating both as president and prime minister due to constitutional issues since 1999. His grip on power seems to have increased with time and those seeking to oppose him face an uphill battle, a battle that is in no way fought on equal terms. With the new law passed earlier this year Putin can in theory stay in power for another 15 years, in effect making him president for life given his age.
So far the opposition in Russia has been able to muster only limited support and the possibility for the opposition to get positive media coverage in a country where press freedom is almost non-existing. In 2020 Russia ranked number 149 out of 179 countries in the Press Freedom Index compiled by the organisation Reporters Without Borders. In another report, by the organisation Freedom House,  Russia scored 83 in terms of press freedom (100 being the worst), mostly because of new laws introduced in 2014 that further extended the government control over mass media in the country.
In this climate, the opposition finds it hard to gain any momentum, and with the fear of consequences in terms of persecution and even murder, many who holds divergent views might find the risk of voicing them a risk not worth taking. To assume a leading role in the Russian opposition has so far for anyone who managed to develop any form of platform led to consequences most of us would be hesitant to risk. As of now, Putin seems to have a strong grip on power, but as we seen before things can quickly change. Right now the Russian leadership is watching events unfold in Belarus, events that have the possibility to also influence the future of Russia.
Henrik G.S. Arvidsson & Ruslana Arvidsson