Navalny: No, I'm not committing suicide

When we last checked in on Russian dissident Alexei Navalny, he was still doing 31 days in jail on a ridiculous parole violation charge while awaiting trial on another trumped-up accusation. He wasn’t letting that get him down too much by all appearances, however. His foundation released another video while he was behind bars, offering his fellow citizens a virtual tour of a billion-dollar mansion he claims Vladimir Putin built for himself using funds he stole from his own government. The guy really does have an infectious sense of humor, I must admit. He continually taunts Putin while exposing all manner of corruption in the former KGB agent’s administration.

How well that will work out in terms of his life expectancy is another matter. And his own mortality appears to be on his mind this week. He sent out another message to all of his supporters on Friday, reassuring them that he is in sound health and has no plans to take his own life. He sounds like he’s once again taunting Putin a bit by pointing out that “accidents” seem to happen to people he finds inconvenient. (Reuters)

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said on Friday he wanted it known that he had no plans to commit suicide in prison, as he issued a message of support to his followers on the eve of protests the authorities say are illegal.

Navalny was detained on Sunday after flying home for the first time since being poisoned with what the West says was a military-grade nerve agent that Navalny says was applied to his underpants by state security agents.

The 44-year-old lawyer, in a Moscow prison pending the outcome of four legal matters he describes as trumped up, accuses President Vladimir Putin of ordering his attempted murder. Putin has dismissed that, alleging Navalny is part of a U.S.-backed dirty tricks campaign to discredit him.

In addition to denying any suicide plans, Navalny said he “uses the staircase very carefully,” in an obvious poke at the idea of people learning that he’d had “an accident” in jail and perished. He also claims that his blood pressure is tested daily and he has the cardiovascular system of “a cosmonaut” so nobody should believe any claims that he died from a sudden heart attack. It’s hard to tell how much of this banter is simply more of his ongoing efforts to rattle Vladimir Putin or if he’s really concerned about another attempt on his life and wants his followers to refuse to be deceived.

As I’ve said here repeatedly, concerns over Alexei Navalny’s future “health” are in no way overblown. The state has already tried to kill him once. I somehow doubt Putin would hesitate to try again.

Navalny was accused of ginning up discontent in the country ahead of protests planned for Saturday. If so, it certainly seemed to work. Huge protests demanding his release broke out in multiple cities, with more than 3,000 people being arrested.

Russia has now filed a complaint saying that the American embassy in their country was “interfering” with its internal affairs by promoting the protests on social media. What our embassy was actually doing was warning United States citizens in Russia about the expected protests, urging them to stay away in case violence broke out. But Putin’s government never tends to let a little thing like the truth stand in their way.

Another protest is planned for January 31st. Vladimir Putin may start running out of space in the jails at this rate.

Navalny’s wife was also arrested during the protests on Saturday, but she was released from custody four hours later. She was only the latest among a group of the dissident’s family members and friends to be targeted for “subversive” activities in support of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation. They include his spokesperson Kira Yarmysh, the Foundation’s investigator Georgy Alburov, and opposition leader Lyubov Sobol.

Can Navalny possibly succeed? He makes a clear and convincing case that Putin is massively corrupt and the people of Russia are not free, but I’m pretty sure everyone already knew that. But Putin has been in this game for a very long time. I just can’t imagine him stepping down or even offering serious reforms in his government just because people are flooding the streets.