Three of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critics have been silenced since the protests of 2011-2013.
A Russian court recently sentenced the Kremlin’s most prominent critic, Alexey Navalny, to three and a half years in jail. Navalny is the third leader of the so-called Snow Revolution — mass protests between 2011-2013 — to be targeted by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Nearly a decade ago, Russia witnessed mass demonstrations led by Navalny, Boris Nemtsov and Sergei Udaltsov demanding fair elections, the release of political prisoners and freedom for political parties and civil organisations.
However, since then, every single one of these men has faced criminal investigations, arrests, alleged poisoning and assassination.
Boris Nemtsov played a significant part in the introduction of reforms in Russia’s post-Soviet economy. In the 1990s, he served in several roles under President Boris Yeltsin.
Nemtsov was appointed deputy prime minister in the Yeltsin administration in 1997, and continued until Yeltsin dissolved the government.
From 2000 until his death in 2015, he was one of Putin’s most outspoken critics.
Boris Nemtsov was assassinated in February 2015 when he was shot several times from behind while crossing a bridge in Moscow. He was murdered two days before a planned peaceful demonstration against Russian involvement in Ukraine’s civil war and the financial crisis in the country.
Yevgenia Albats, the editor of New Times magazine, said: “He (Nemtsov) was afraid of being killed," after the assassination.
"And he was trying to convince himself, and me, they wouldn't touch him because he was a member of the Russian government, a vice premier, and they wouldn't want to create a precedent. Because, as he said, one time the power will change hands in Russia again, and those who served Putin wouldn't want to create this precedent," she added.
His assassination is one more in a long list of murdered Russian politicians, human rights activists, and journalists in the Putin era.
Russian political activist Sergei Stanislavovich Udaltsov is the unofficial leader of the Vanguard of Red Youth (AKM).
He was among the leaders of the Snow Revolution protests against Putin. In 2014, he was sentenced to four and a half years for organising “mass demonstrations” which ended in violence between the police and protesters.
He was released from prison in August 2017. However, a Moscow court gave him a three year parole restriction which prevents him from leaving the capital and attending public events.
In May 2020, Udaltsov was detained by police for a parole violation.
"On May 1 I gave an interview some 100 metres from a site where leftist groups were rallying, so police considered it a violation of my parole condition that bans my participation in public events," Udaltsov said.
Still today he is required to report to a police station twice a week.
Alexey Anatolievich Navalny, 44, is currently the most prominent critic of President Putin.
He has become internationally renowned after organising anti-government rallies and running for office by advocating reforms against what he calls the corruption of Putin’s government.
Navalny has been described as "the man Vladimir Putin fears most" by The Wall Street Journal’s article published in 2013.
He is the founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) and the leader of the Russia of the Future party.
Когда с друзьями ждёшь прилёта самолета pic.twitter.com/GGWbukM1n7— Alexey Navalny (@navalny) January 17, 2021
He also organises and promotes political rallies via these channels.
After the Snow Revolution protests, he faced a suspended sentence for embezzlement in 2013.
He contested the 2013 Moscow mayoral election, but he lost to Putin’s candidate, the incumbent mayor Sergey Sobyanin.
In 2014, he received another suspended sentence for embezzlement which was considered politically motivated.
He launched his presidential campaign for the 2018 presidential election but his candidacy was rejected by the Supreme Court of Russia due to prior (controversial) criminal convictions.
In August 2020, Navalny was hospitalised in a critical condition due to poisoning from a nerve agent commonly used by the Russian state. He was evacuated to Germany and discharged a month later.
Navalny said that only President Putin could have been behind the attack against him with a Soviet-era nerve agent.
He was arrested at the Russian border in January this year after returning from Germany where he had been recovering.
Thousands of his supporters across the country have been taken into custody during the protests demanding his release from prison.