Remembering Alexei Navalny

The tragic death of Alexei Navalny gives a chilling insight into life in Russia today. Alexei was a leader in the Russian Opposition Coordination Council and was the main political opponent of President Putin. He was a lawyer by training and campaigned for human rights and against corruption. He was married with two children. On 20 August 2020 Alexei fell ill during a flight from Tomsk to Moscow. The plane made an emergency landing, and he was taken to hospital. He had been poisoned with the Novichok nerve agent and was screaming loudly not from pain but because he thought he was dying. He was evacuated to a hospital in Berlin where he recovered through the excellent treatment he received.

In January 2021 Alexei returned to Moscow and was immediately arrested and charged with violating parole conditions while he was in Germany. He was imprisoned and was never free again. He was charged with various serious offences and sentenced to many years in prison. It was clear that the Russian government was determined to silence him and even to arrange for him to die. In December 2023 he was sent to an Arctic Circle corrective colony, which has one the severest prison regimes in Russia. On 16 February he died suddenly at the age of 47. The report of his death on Russian television took just 28 seconds and hundreds of ordinary people who laid flowers in memory of him were arrested.

In the face of such blatant and wicked injustice it would be easy to feel totally helpless but Jesus, the Son of God, gives us hope. Alexei was originally an atheist but later became a member of the Russian Orthodox Church. He would have known that Jesus was a good man who was hated by the religious leaders of his day who treated him unjustly. They made false accusations against him and demanded that he be put to death. He was executed at the command of Pilate, the governor appointed by Imperial Rome, which was then the supreme super-power. Pilate knew that Jesus was an innocent man but wanted to please the mob.

Jesus is able to comfort those who suffer injustice in this life because he knows what is like to treated unjustly and has promised to be with us and to give us strength when we suffer. It is also important to remember that no-one will escape God’s righteous judgement because he has appointed a day when his Son, Jesus, will judge the whole world with justice.

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