Putin has served as president of Russia since 2008. During that time, he has changed laws to extend his reign, rigged elections in his own favor, and stomped out critics at every opportunity — including killing political opponents.
Despite this, Navalny has remained one of the most vocal and active critics of Russia’s autocratic leader.
Navalny got his start in Russian political activism through anti-corruption campaigns. After investing money into major Russian corporations in order to gain access to financial documents, he started publishing documents alleging to show massive amounts of state money being stolen.
He continued raising charges of fraud against Russian oligarchs, claiming that members of Putin’s cabinet were embezzling public funds and enriching themselves.
Eventually, Navalny turned his investigative eye to Putin himself and accused the president of building a billion-dollar palace with fraudulent funds.
On top of his activism and in-depth investigations of corruption within the ranks of Russian oligarchs, Navalny has attempted to get inside the machine of Russian politics as well. He has run for mayor of Moscow and president of Russia.
During both elections, Navalny was jailed by the state.
Navalny is the leader of the Russia of the Future party, an unregistered political party that has collaborated with RPR-PARNAS, the largest official opposition party, in attempts to create a unified voting bloc to oppose Putin.
Because of his activism and political pursuits, Navalny has been one of the top public enemies of Putin and the Kremlin. He has been jailed on multiple occasions under dubious charges.
In 2012, he was accused of theft. An independent investigation found that the chargers represented a “misuse of the Russian legal system to harass, isolate, and attempt to silence political opponents,” but Navalny was still sentenced to five years in prison in the midst of his campaign to become mayor of Moscow.
The Russian government has repeatedly harassed Navalny with legal challenges, placing him under house arrest and restricting his ability to travel.
In 2020, Navalny fell violently ill while on a flight from Siberia to Moscow. The cause, it was determined, was a cup of tea he purchased while at the airport that had been poisoned. He fell into a coma, and it was feared that he would die while in a Russian hospital.
He was transferred to a German hospital, where he was able to recover. It was there that they discovered he had been poisoned with the same type of nerve agent that had previously been used to kill a former Russian spy in another high-profile poisoning attack.
Russia has denied making an attempt on Navalny’s life.
Given Putin’s recent crackdown on free speech, it seems unlikely that his government will go lightly on its biggest critic.