The Death of Alexei Navalny: The pro-Putin Hill many in the West wish to die on.

Protest image

Jamie Whitwell 


Alexi Navalny, a prominent and vocal Russian opposition leader to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was declared dead on February 16, 2024, by the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service (Effectively the Russian government agency in charge of Russian prisons and correctional facilities) and also confirmed by Navalny’s spokeswoman. The reaction from the West has been to blame the Russian government, notably Putin, for his death. In this article, James Whitwall covers the different responses to Navalny’s death, including why there is a solid pro-Putin rhetoric on an international level and the political aftermath of his death, such as the demand to extradite Julian Assange to the US from the UK, and the military situation in Ukraine.

“Every leader kills people,” Tucker Carlson stated firmly on the 12th of February. Carlson, an American right-wing commentator, was challenged at the 2024 World Government Summit, fresh off the back of a propaganda-fuelled sojourn to Vladimir Putin’s Russia that he claimed is the raison d’être of journalists. It seemed more like Karl Pilkington’s An Idiot Abroad.  

As Tucker Carlson looked up at Putin with puppy-dog eyes, lapping up convoluted justifications of Russia’s claim to Ukraine and predictable talking points on the eastward encroachment of NATO, much of his Western audience believed what they saw. Vladimir Putin as a straight-talking man, well-versed in history and geopolitics, whilst their own President cannot string a sentence together.

Alongside this interview, his nonchalant comments at the World Government Summit preceded the death of Putin’s most feared opponent, Alexei Navalny, whilst incarcerated in Russia on the 16th of February. The Russian prison service claims he fell ill shortly after finishing a walk, but prominent figures have accused the Kremlin of assassinating Navalny. Throughout his political career, Alexei Navalny garnered a loyal base of support by opposing the corruption and injustices plaguing Russian society. In 2020, German doctors treating him in Berlin said a Soviet-era nerve agent called Novichok, poisoned the critic. After recovering, he was immediately arrested on his return to Russia in 2021, where he has been imprisoned ever since.

Navalny’s death comes amidst a barrage of pro-Russian statements and rhetoric echoed within a global scale; particularly in Western countries such as the US.

His death also comes in the wake of inflammatory remarks seemingly encouraging the Russian invasion of NATO members by former U.S. President Donald Trump. The American right has often been sceptical of the war in Ukraine, concerned over the vast amount of taxpayers’ money being sent to Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s war effort. However, recent events have shown that the once-bubbling political conflict has finally boiled over. As some bipartisan lawmakers look to bolster commitments to NATO, the anti-Ukraine war lobby has stalled and obfuscated vital aid from being sent. The U.S. has blamed the fall of the Ukrainian town of Avdiivka on a lack of congressional military and financial support.

The anti-Ukraine war lobby used to be just that. However, thanks to the efforts of Carlson, Trump, and, to an extent, Elon Musk, the debate seems to have swung into pro-Putin territory. The death of Navalny affirms this shift. Whilst Musk was quick to state he was watching the momentous interview with Vladimir Putin, he has refrained from any such commentary on the death of Navalny. This is significant – Musk has suggested that there is “no way in hell” that Russia can be defeated in Ukraine. Alexei Navalny’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya also had her X (formerly Twitter) account briefly suspended.

While Western reaction was condemnatory of Russia, right-wing media was rather quiet, or focused on exposing Western reaction as hypocritical and double standards.

Navalny’s death has been met with great outrage from those in the Western world animated by injustices in Russia. Joe Biden described it as “yet more proof of Putin’s brutality” and encouraged further condemnation of the Russian regime by NATO leaders. In Russia itself, those who even dare to mourn the death of an opposition politician are swiftly moved by police. But among the right, radio silence. They do, however, look to attack Navalny’s character or bring up the case of Julian Assange. The United States is currently trying to extradite Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, from London after he released classified U.S. military evidence alleging American war crimes during the Iraq War. Proponents of the anti-Ukraine lobby accuse the United States of faux outrage over the death of Navalny and hypocrisy given their attempts to charge Assange.

As American politics continues to become more polarised, the exacerbation of this often-vitriolic debate should be no surprise. It will continue to decapitate Ukrainian efforts on the front line and further embolden Vladimir Putin. Legitimate concerns about the destination of taxpayers’ money are being replaced by vociferous anti-Ukraine voices. An important message remains: the pro-Putin hill is a dangerous one to die on.

Jamie Whitwell


Featured image courtesy of Valery Tenevoy via Unsplash, Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

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