Who is Alexei Navalny, apart from being Putin's nightmare?

New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaEdited By: Gravitas deskUpdated: Feb 06, 2021, 07:47 AM IST

File Photo of Alexei Navalny and Vladimir Putin Photograph:(WION Web Team)

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Alexei Navalny has not just challenged Putin's leadership, but also his strongman image

Alexei Navalny is a man who is rarely named by the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin critic and Putin's latest nightmare is 44-year-old, popular and has support abroad. His poisoning made him a household name and his dramatic arrest heightened his profile. Even in jail, he has outmanoeuvred Vladimir Putin.

Also read| How Navalny built an opposition in Russia despite Putin's tight grip on power

Alexei Navalny is the son of an army officer. Navalny grew up in Obninsk, about 60 miles south-west of Moscow. With a degree in law, he also spent time in the United States on a fellowship at Yale University.

In the year 2000, at the age of 24, he joined the Russian united democratic party, Yabloko. Then, seven years later, he was expelled from the party for his overtly 'nationalistic activities'.

During anti-Putin demonstrations in 2011, he was among the first opposition leaders arrested. In 2013, he ran for the Mayor of Moscow but lost to a Kremlin-backed candidate. Since then, Navalny has been barred from running for office. Instead, he has turned his focus on social media to mobilise crowds of mostly young protesters.

He is best known for producing detailed investigations into corruption. Investigations such as 'He Is Not Dimon to You' which accused the former prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev of corruption, 'The case has been solved. I know everyone who tried to kill me' which detailed his poisoning, 'Parazity' that exposed the Kremlin's control on the Russian media and the being 'Putin's Palace: History of the World's Largest Bribe'.

Navalny has not just challenged Putin's leadership, but also his strongman image. He has single-handedly put Putin in a catch 22 situation as letting Navalny walk out of prison comes with a huge cost, but keeping him behind bars is not helping either.

His case gave a new life to dying opposition parties. There are a total of 69 of them but only six parties are represented in the Russian parliament, the state duma. Putin's party, United Russia, is the largest faction with 343 of 450 seats. The second-largest faction is the Communist Party of the Russian Federation with 42 seats, followed by LDPR with 40 seats and A Just Russia with 23 seats among two others.

The small numbers have made these parties a rubber-stamp opposition. Putin's party holds the final say over the passage of any measures. Majorly, the ideological differences within the opposition makes a merger quite difficult.

Alexei Navalny emerged as a unifying force as his witty posts, memes and pop culture references got the support of leaders across party lines. However, now that he's in jail, the Russian opposition has once again lost its voice.