n August 9, 1999, Vladimir Putin became the prime minister of the Russian Federation under the presidency of Boris Yeltsin and after the death of Yeltsin, he was sworn in as the acting president of Russia, and the following year he won the elections and became the president. From 2000 Putin has never looked back and has been ruling Russia effectively.
From 2018 when he won his fourth presidential term President it was only once in these 18 years that Putin had to leave the Kremlin. Russian constitution has set a limit that no president can serve more than two consecutive terms but doesn’t limit the number of times a president can hold office. So In 2008, Dmitry Medvedev became the head of the state for the next four years and Putin took the task of the premiership and it was the second time he became the prime minister.
The rise of Alexei Navalny has to be closely linked with the Russian president Vladimir Putin. For us to understand what led to the rise of Navalny we need to understand how Vladimir Putin has been ruling Russia and what policies he has implemented. Putin worked for the Soviet intelligence KGB, and during the collapse of the Soviet Union, he was working as an undercover spy in the East German state.
For Putin, the collapse of the USSR was a major Geopolitical disaster with millions of Russians finding themselves outdid the new Russian state. so when he became president in 2000 he started to build a country in his image, on his ideological patterns, and more importantly trying to keep power as central as he can. Alexei Navalny is a lawyer and has been a Kremlin critique for a long time. He first rose to prominence in 2011 when he took part in the anti-Putin demonstration for which he was later jailed and after the following, he launched his major plan to counter Putin by launching his first political party people’s Alliance which included many activist like him who opposed Putin. But since Putin and his party United Russia have very tight control over the elections be it local or federal it became impossible for Alexei Navalny to register its party and after multiple attempts, he failed and his party was suspended on various charges including stealing the name of a political party. After two years and efforts from an activist in 2014 the name was changed to Progress party and it was registered.
Russian elections are so tightly controlled by the Russian president Putin and his party that is united Russia that it becomes impossible for any party to contest let alone win. When Putin came to power he wanted to make Russia in the image of KGB, as central, as powerful, and as secretive as he can, and for that, he needed to control certain institutions and the first thing he did was that he went after the oligarchy. Oligarch in post soviet ear was very powerful and most of the wealth was concentrated in the hand of very few people. This was the result of mass
privatization after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Putin relied on this Oligarch for their support and once in power, he started to tighten his over this oligarch. Those who would favor Putin were rewarded and those who opposed were either jailed or killed.
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Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Boris Berezovsky, Nicolai Glushshov all were charged with embezzlement. Now oligarch under his control he went after the media, many independent media houses were raised hundreds arrested and jailed for anti-Putin stance. Everything from federal to local news channels and newspapers was brought under tight state control. Anything that Putin could get his hands on was being attacked and there was hardly any independent media left. Now Putin was trying to slowly engulf all institutions that could function independently.
In Russia, the main party is Putin’s “United Russia” and has been the key player in governing the affairs of the elections at the federal as well as local level. There are hardly any parties that are allowed to go against United Russia. Elections are rigged from the very beginning as their no I party is allowed to go against Putin’s United Russia. If there are parties they are mostly handpicked parties by Putin for the sake of elections. When Alexei wanted to run for the office he wanted to do it through e-democracy as the mainstream was rigged anyway.
During the election, he appealed to all his voters to vote for only one opposition party even though it was backed by Putin and was only a dummy candidate but it allowed Navalny to gather huge support within Russia. Alexei Navalny’s prominence came through due to his anti-corruption activities. The entire Russian state under Putin has been so badly affected by the corruption that it has become a foundation stone of the regime. All that Putin does involves corruption and his regime has been sustained through this corruption. Media, oligarchy, Law, election, and judiciary have been plagued by corruption and it has been a structural feature of Putin’s regime. In 2011 Navalny first exposed this corruption when he launched his investigation into the wealth accumulated by President Putin. He referred to Putin’s Party “United Russia” as a party of thieves and crooks who are looting Russian people and turning Russian into a feudal Tsarist State.
Navalny launched an Anti-corruption organization by the name FSK (Anti-corruption Foundation) and through it, he launched multiple operations and disclosed many dark secrets of the Russian state. His investigation showed how much wealth had been given to close aids of Putin including a huge palace with vineyards, casinos, hundreds of acres of land and Bungalows, and alter it was found that it belonged to Putin’s close friend and a Russian billionaire Arkady Rotenberg.
In 2010, Navalny showed that close to 500 billion have been lost due to corruption during the years between 2000-2008 and most of this money went to offshore accounts. $4 Billion were stolen out of the state-owned Transnet which he later revealed by him through internal documents. Many such corruption scandals were revealed by the documents which were related to land, oil companies, and state-owned industries. It was the first time that the Russian people came to know about corruption on a massive scale. When the leaks were out huge
demonstrations were held across Russia in various cities and after that Navalny was arrested. It only led to his popularity and eventually, more and more protesters took place against Putin’s regime. This is all in the middle of the Russian economy in a bad condition and the value of the ruble declining day by day.
Corruption could be considered that one glue that was holding the Putin regime in place until Navalny came and exposed how much losses Russian people had to make and how corruption has been a core component for the past 20 years. One more thing that the Russian Government did with its opponent was to put them under embezzlement charges. In fact, in Navalny’s case, he was also charged for embezzlement. Mikhail Kordorvisky was one of the richest oligarchs but in 2004 he was also jailed on embezzlement charges. He was charged for tax evasion and at that time was head of Yukos Oil Company. Mikhail was a state asset until he in an interview explained how people in Kremlin took huge bribes for political favors. Immediately after that, he was also put in jail. There have been times where the situation between the Oligarchs and Putin hasn’t been smooth it caused a significant problem for Putin.
Alexei Navalny when returned from Germany was immediately arrested from the airport by the Russian authorities and was again charged and sentenced to prison. Navalny was in Siberia when he was the campaign for the presidential elections and after he was done there he went back to Moscow but during the flight, he was poised through a nerve agent Novochick. This was the second time he was poisoned. After he collapsed on the plane he was taken to Germany for treatment and few days his health remained critical but recovered and returned to Russia within few weeks. His camping against Putin which took off from 2010 through online posts and blogging and later spread like a fire through Russian had challenged Putin’s authority. After Putin won the presidency in 2018 huge anti- Putin protests were seen in Moscow and many cities as allegations of voter fraud surrounded the elections. Putin’s popularity has been decreasing as the situation with the west is in shambles and with more international sanctions against Navalny arrest situation is only going to worse for Putin.
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