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My friend Navalny

Alexei, Boris Nemtsov and I have dedicated our lives to making Russia a free and happy country. Today they are both dead and I feel a black emptiness, but I will continue fighting against tyranny

Alexei Navalny
Alexei Navalny in Moscow in 2017. Oleg Nikishin (Epsilon/Getty)

The news reaches the barracks of a prison camp slowly, and I only found out about Alexei Navalny’s death yesterday.

It's hard to convey my shock. It's hard to organize your ideas. The pain and horror are unbearable.

In any case, I won’t stay silent. I will say what I think is important.

I do not ask myself the question of what happened to Navalny. I have no doubt that they killed him. Alexei spent three years under the control of the security forces, who already organized an attack on him in 2020 that failed. Today they have taken the operation to the end.

I don’t ask myself the question of who killed him. I have no doubt that it is Putin. Putin is a war criminal. Navalny was his key opponent in Russia and was hated in the Kremlin. Putin had the motive and the opportunity. And I am convinced that he was the one who ordered him killed.

I understand that official propaganda will begin to manipulate public opinion. They will say that Navalny’s death does not benefit the president, that killing Navalny one month before the elections is not logical, that Putin is focused on global politics and does not have time to think about who knows what prisoner... It is a complete stupidity, and you can instantly erase it from your brain. After Navalny’s poisoning in 2020, propaganda defended Putin with the argument that “if he had wanted to kill him, he would have done it.” And it is the pure truth. He wanted it and he killed him. And not only did he kill him, but he killed him demonstratively. Especially shortly before the elections, so that no one actually doubts Putin’s participation. In the same obvious way that he killed Prigozhin: so that no one would doubt it.

As Putin understands things, this is precisely how power is consolidated: with murder, cruelty and exemplary revenge. This is not the thinking of a statesman. It’s the way of thinking of a gang boss. So let us honestly recognize that Putin is the head of a mafia structure that has merged with our state. A being deprived of all moral or legal restrictions. A being that subjects his people to terror, and those who do not fear him he locks up or eliminates.

That’s why Boris Nemtsov was shot dead. That is why they killed Alexei Navalny. For three years, inside the penal colonies, they tortured him in the punishment cells and punished him so that Alexei would ask for mercy. They did not succeed and that is why they have taken his life.

The confrontation between Navalny and Putin has shown the dimension of both personalities. Alexei will remain in history as a man of incomparable courage, a man who continued forward in the name of what he believed in. And he marched with a smile and his head proudly held high. And he died like a hero.

Putin, on the other hand, will remain a little man who happened to receive enormous power into his hands. A character who hides in a bunker, who kills when nobody is looking and makes millions of people hostage to his own complexes.

But I don’t wish death on Putin. I long for him to answer for his crimes, and not only before the divine judge but before the earthly ones as well.

Alexei Navalny was my friend. As was Boris Nemtsov. We worked for the same cause and dedicated our lives to making Russia a peaceful, free and happy country. Today my two friends are dead. And I feel a black emptiness deep inside. And, of course, I am aware of my own risks. I am behind bars, my life is in Putin’s hands and it is in danger. But I will continue to push the envelope with my line.

Standing before Boris’ body in February 2015, I swore to myself not to be afraid, not to give up and not to run away. Nine years later, mourning the murder of Navalny, I can only repeat my oath: as long as my heart continues to beat in my chest, I will continue fighting against tyranny. As long as I live I will not fear evil. As long as I breathe, I will be with my people. I swear it.

Alexei sleeps in peace.

Yulia [the widow], Lyudmila Ivanovna and Anatoly Ivanovich [the parents], Oleg, Dasha and Zakhar [the children]: courage! I am with you.

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