A look into the life of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny

In the span of a decade, Alexei Navalny went from being the Kremlin’s greatest enemy to Russia’s most prominent political prisoner.

As Navalny serves two terms that have landed him in prison for at least nine years, he faces a new trial that could keep him behind bars for two more decades.

Navalny turns 47 this Sunday: in prison, where he has been held in solitary confinement repeatedly.

This is a timeline of Navalny’s life, his political activism, and the accusations he has faced over the years:


June 4, 1976 – Navalny is born in a western part of the Moscow region.

1997 – Graduates in Law from RUDN University of Russia; she earned an economics degree in 2001 while working as a lawyer.

2004 – Forms a movement against excessive and rampant development in Moscow, according to his campaign website.

2008 – Gains notoriety for exposing corruption in state corporations, such as the gas giant Gazprom and the oil juggernaut Rosneft, through his blogs and other publications.

2010 – Founds RosPil, an anti-corruption project led by a team of lawyers that analyzes spending by state agencies and companies, exposes violations, and challenges them in court.

2011 – Establishes the Anti-Corruption Foundation, which will become his team’s main platform for exposing alleged bribery among Russia’s top political ranks.

December 2011 – Participates in mass protests sparked by reports of widespread rigging in Russia’s parliamentary elections, and is arrested and jailed for 15 days for “defying a government official.”

massive protests

March 2012 – Following the re-election and inauguration of President Vladimir Putin, mass protests break out in Moscow and elsewhere. Navalny accuses key figures of corruption, including then-Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov and Chechnya leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

July 2012 – Russia’s Investigative Committee accuses Navalny of embezzlement involving Kirovles, a state-owned logging company in the Kirov region, when he was an adviser to the local governor. Navalny rejects the accusations, saying they are politically motivated.

December 2012 – The Investigative Committee launches another inquiry into alleged embezzlement at a Russian subsidiary of Yves Rocher, a French cosmetics company linked to Navalny. Navalny repeats that the accusations are politically motivated.

2013 – Navalny runs for mayor of Moscow, a move the authorities not only allow but encourage, in an attempt to put a veneer of democracy on the race, designed to boost the profile of incumbent mayor Sergei Sobyanin.

July 2013 – A Kirov court convicts Navalny of embezzlement in the Kirovles case and sentences him to five years in prison. The prosecution requests that Navalny be released pending his appeal, and he resumes his campaign.

second in the electoral contest

September 2013 – Official results show Navalny finishing second in the mayoral race behind Sobyanin, with 27% of the vote, after a successful election and fundraising campaign that received 97.3 million rubles ( $2.9 million) from individual supporters.

October 2013 – A court gives Navalny a suspended sentence in the Kirovles case.

February 2014 – Navalny is placed under house arrest in connection with the Yves Rocher case and is prohibited from using the internet. However, regular updates continue to be posted on his blog, presumably by his team, detailing the alleged corruption of various Russian officials.

December 2014 – Navalny and his brother, Oleg, are found guilty of fraud in the Yves Rocher case. Navalny receives a suspended sentence of 3 1/2 years, while his brother receives a prison sentence. Both appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

December 2015 – Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation releases its first feature film: a YouTube documentary called “Chaika,” which means “seagull” in Russian but is also the last name of then-Attorney General Yury Chaika. The 44-minute video accuses him of corruption and alleged links to a notorious criminal group. The film has amassed 26 million views on YouTube. Chaika and other Russian officials deny the allegations.

February 2016 – The European Court of Human Rights rules that Russia violated Navalny’s right to a fair trial in the Kirovles case and orders the government to pay legal costs and damages.

judgment annulled

November 2016 – The Russian Supreme Court overturns Navalny’s sentence and returns the case to the original court in the city of Kirov for review.

December 2016 – Navalny announces that he will run in the 2018 Russian presidential election.

February 2017 – The Kirov court retrials Navalny and upholds his five-year suspended sentence from 2013.

March 2017 – Navalny posts a documentary on YouTube accusing then-Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of corruption. It had over 7 million views in its first week. A series of anti-corruption protests across Russia draw tens of thousands of people and there are mass arrests. Navalny tours the country to open campaign offices, holds large rallies and is repeatedly jailed for unauthorized demonstrations.

April 27, 2017 – Unidentified assailants throw green disinfectant in his face, damaging his right eye. Blame the Kremlin for the attack.

October 2017 – The European Court of Human Rights finds Navalny’s fraud conviction in the Yves Rocher case “arbitrary and clearly unreasonable.”

December 2017 – Russia’s Central Election Commission bars him from running for president over his conviction in the Kirovles case, a move condemned by the European Union for casting “serious doubts” on the election.

postulation prohibited

July 2019 – Members of Navalny’s team, along with other opposition activists, are prevented from running for Moscow city council, sparking protests that are violently dispersed, with thousands of arrests. Navalny’s team responds and promotes the “Smart Vote” strategy, which encourages the election of any candidate except those of the Kremlin’s United Russia party. The strategy works and the party loses its majority.

2020 – Navalny hopes to implement the Smart Vote strategy in the September regional elections and tours Siberia as part of that effort.

August 20, 2020 – During a flight from the city of Tomsk, where he worked with local activists, Navalny falls ill and the plane makes an emergency landing in nearby Omsk. After being hospitalized in a coma, Navalny’s team says they suspect he was poisoned.

August 22, 2020 – Navalny, still in a coma, is taken to a hospital in Berlin.

August 24, 2020 – German authorities confirm that Navalny was poisoned with a Soviet-era neurotoxin. After recovering, he blames the Kremlin, an accusation denied by Russian officials.

January 17, 2021 – After five months in Germany, Navalny is arrested upon his return to Russia and authorities say his recovery abroad violated the terms of his suspended sentence in the Yves Rocher case. His arrest sparks some of the biggest protests in Russia in years. Thousands of people are arrested.

February 2, 2021 – A Moscow court orders Navalny to serve two and a half years in prison for violating his probation. While in prison, Navalny organizes a three-week hunger strike to protest the lack of medical treatment and intentional sleep deprivation.

June 2021 – A Moscow court declares Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation and some 40 regional offices illegal as extremists, shutting down his political network. His close associates and members of his team are put on trial and some leave Russia under duress. Navalny maintains contact with her lawyers and her team from prison and they update their accounts on social networks.

February 24, 2022 – Russia invades Ukraine. Navalny uses social networks to condemn the war from prison and during his appearances in court.

March 22, 2022 – Navalny is sentenced to an additional nine years for embezzlement and contempt of court in a case his supporters have rejected as falsified. He is transferred to a maximum security prison in the western region of Vladimir, Russia.

July 2022 – Navalny’s team announces the relaunch of the Anti-Corruption Foundation as an international organization with an advisory board that includes Francis Fukuayama, Anne Applebaum and Guy Verhofstadt, a member of the European Parliament and former Belgian Prime Minister.

Navalny continues to file lawsuits in prison and attempts to form a union at the facility. In response, corrections officers regularly place him in solitary confinement for alleged disciplinary infractions, such as not buttoning his clothes correctly or not washing his face at a certain time.

2023 – More than 400 Russian doctors sign an open letter to Putin urging an end to “abuses” against Navalny, following reports that he was denied basic medication after coming down with the flu. His team expressed concern for his health, and he said in April that he had a sharp stomach ache and suspected he was being slowly poisoned.

March 12, 2023 – “Navalny,” a documentary about the attempt on the life of the Russian opposition leader, wins the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.

April 26, 2023 – Appearing on video link from prison during a hearing, Navalny said he was facing new extremism and terrorism charges that could keep him behind bars for the rest of his life. He sarcastically added that the charges imply that “I am carrying out terrorist attacks while in prison.” A hearing was set for June 6.

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