Aleksei Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, died on Friday in a penal colony. He was 47.
Navalny’s body has not been released to his family, and the cause of death remains unclear.
Navalny was the Kremlin’s fiercest critic. He publicly denounced the corruption he saw at the core of President Vladimir Putin’s political party at immense personal cost: He barely survived an attempted poisoning and had been imprisoned since 2021.
Yesterday I spoke with Anton Troianovski, The Times’s Moscow bureau chief, about the response to Navalny’s death and the future of Russia’s opposition.
What kind of reaction are you seeing in Russia? How are people mourning?
All over the country, people are laying flowers at memorials to Soviet repressions. A lot of cities in Russia have these memorials that were generally put up in the 1990s, honoring the victims of the gulag and other repression during the Soviet Union. And it seems that people are kind of automatically gravitating to those places in order to honor Navalny’s memory.
Of course, we’re talking about the minority of people who are brave enough to do that. Human rights groups have reported hundreds of arrests already of people who have gone just to lay flowers. Even doing that is a very dangerous statement in today’s Russia. And at the same time, on state television, which is the main news medium in Russia today, there is pretty much no reporting on what has happened.
What does this mean for the opposition in Russia?
It’s a devastating moment for the opposition in Russia. I don’t think you can say it any other way. Navalny was the hope for people opposed to Vladimir Putin, though Navalny was a controversial figure in some ways. There were people who thought, especially earlier in his political career, that he was kind of too nationalist. He had quite a direct, brusque style that turned some people off.
But no one disputed that he was the main alternative to Vladimir Putin in Russian politics. He was really the only figure of all the various political figures in the last 24 years seeking to challenge Putin. He was the only one who was able to appeal not just to urban liberals in Moscow but really to a much broader cross-section of Russians. He was incredibly adept at using YouTube and social media to penetrate the bubble of propaganda created by state television. And he was able to build a nationwide political network that repeatedly was able to organize mass protests.
What can the opposition do going forward?
Shortly before his death, Navalny endorsed an idea that another exiled opposition figure came up with, which was to say: How about everyone who is opposed to Putin goes to a local polling station at exactly the same time on March 17, the last day of the election? And opposition figures are saying that the time should be noon local time in your city.
So that’s something that it seems the opposition in exile is very much going to be pushing on social media, on YouTube. And opposition figures are thinking that even in the current repressive environment, perhaps this is a relatively safe way to protest because no one says you’re not allowed to go to the polls.
Russia captured Avdiivka
Ukrainian forces withdrew from Avdiivka, a ruined city on the eastern front line, giving Russia its greatest battlefield victory since it captured Bakhmut in May. The retreat comes at a time when Ukraine’s military is outgunned and stretched thin.
Ukrainian soldiers in Avdiivka withstood near-constant bombardment and fought intense battles to break out of Russian attempts to encircle them. More than 900 of the city’s 30,000 inhabitants remained there, mostly surviving underground on food and supplies brought in by aid workers. Their fate is unknown.
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Such a company does not exist yet, but the idea is gaining traction with some environmentalists and investors.
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ARTS AND IDEAS
When eating with your hands is encouraged
In the West, only certain foods and scenarios are exempt from flatware. But in parts of Africa, the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia, eating with the hands is traditional and remains routine for some.
Now, some restaurants in Western countries that serve food from those cultures are asking patrons to drop their forks, wash their hands and dig in.