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Alexei Navalny: Dissent is dangerous in Russia, but activists refuse to give up

26/2/2024 6:05
        Following the death of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, another political prisoner is trying to keep the hope of change alive - even from behind bars.
        "Freedom costs dearly," the opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza once wrote to me from a Russian prison cell.
        He was quoting his political mentor, Boris Nemtsov, who was murdered in 2015 in Moscow - right beside the Kremlin.
        Now Russian President Vladimir Putin's biggest rival, Alexei Navalny, is dead.
        The price of political opposition has never been higher in modern Russia or the goal of change so remote.
        Such is the fear of reprisal that Navalny's death did not spark mass, angry protests. Several hundred people were detained just for laying flowers in his memory.
        But Mr Kara-Murza refuses to abandon either his fight or his hope.
        This week he urged opposition supporters to "work even harder" to achieve what Navalny and Nemtsov had fought for: the chance to live in a free country.
        He made his own choice, long ago. "The price of speaking out is high," the activist wrote to me, soon after his arrest in 2022.
        "But the price of silence is unacceptable."
        Alexei Navalny, who was 47, and Vladimir Kara-Murza, 42, are very different men.
        Navalny was a social-media phenomenon, a charismatic speaker with some of the egotism of a natural-born leader.
        Mr Kara-Murza is a softly spoken intellectual - more back-room lobbyist than crowd-gatherer.
        He's not a household name in Russia even now.
        But both men shared the same drive and a conviction that Putin's Russia was not eternal and political freedom was possible.
        Whilst Navalny produced video exposés of corruption at the highest level of power, Mr Kara-Murza lobbied Western governments for sanctions to target officials' assets and cash stashed abroad.
        Both have paid dearly.
        In 2015, five years before Navalny was attacked with a nerve agent, Mr Kara-Murza collapsed and fell into a coma.
        Two years later, it happened again. Tests in the US confirmed he had been poisoned.
        But he never stopped speaking his mind, which included denouncing Mr Putin's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
        Last year, Mr Kara-Murza was sentenced to 25 years for treason - although the charge sheet listed nothing but peaceful opposition activity.
        



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