Give the Russians this much: They know how to rub it in.
On mainland China, they charge a "bullet fee" to the family of an executed prisoner. The former and current Reds in Moscow are expert at this game, too. The other day they arrested Alexei Navalny for violating his parole--because he didn't report for meetings with law enforcement when he was in Germany recovering from nerve-agent poisoning likely directed by the Kremlin.
This is how things are done in modern but still tsarist Russia.
We don't know what was going on in the mind of Alexei Navalny when he boarded that plane from Germany back to Russia. Of course he knew that the authorities would be waiting for him at the airport. And they'd tried the old KGB formula of poisoning him on foreign soil, only to fail. (Alexei Navalny was able to dupe one of the assassins into a recorded confession.)
So why would Comrade Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin have any qualms about offing his critic in a Russian jail? Answer: He wouldn't. Alexei Navalny is braver than we'd ever like to be.
But something happened on the way to yet another Putin critic mysteriously dying in a Russian prison cell. The Russian people came out, into the Russian winter, to protest. And did so by the tens of thousands.
Dispatches say that more than 5,000 people were arrested over the weekend. That didn't include more protests lined up for early this week. The wire reports say this was the "largest, most widespread show of discontent that Russia has seen in years." The protests over the arrest of this one man spanned all of Russia's 11 time zones.
Alexei Navalny is an anti-corruption investigator and Comrade Putin's best-known critic. Much to Vlad the Impaler's consternation, Mr. Navalny posted a YouTube video of Russian corruption--including a nice billion-dollar spread for Vladimir Putin's getaway villa on the Black Sea--that has been viewed more than 100 million times. (The vacation house apparently has its own disco, hookah lounge and a casino. Home sweet home.)
It seems many Russians have inquiring minds. They are asking how the president-for-life can afford a $1.3 billion-dollar spread when they're struggling with finances.
According to Reuters: "Real incomes fell 3.5 percent [in Russia] last year, unemployment is at its highest since 2011, and the economy in 2020, hit hard by the pandemic, is estimated to have suffered its sharpest contraction in 11 years." (NB: Putin has found a crony who says he owns the villa, not his boss.)
The protesters have an interesting symbol, which should give this movement an interesting nickname soon enough. Protesters are carrying around golden toilet brushes, inspired by the presence of golden toilet brushes in that Black Sea villa made famous by YouTube and Alexei Navalny. We can't think of a more appropriate symbol for those trying to clean up modern Russia.
A friend emailed a story about Alexei Navalny this week, and added his own editorial comment: Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? A corollary is why does God allow so much suffering?
Earlier this year our friend and a study group took on the life of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and what a life to study! The group discussed all the suffering the man incurred while in prison in Russia.
But without that suffering, our friend noted, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn may never have written "The Gulag Archipelago" and other great books that helped topple the communist regime and the Soviet Union.
Clearly his experiences in prison and later revelations saved untold thousands of other people from equal or worse fates. Did God have a plan for Solzhenitsyn? Does God have a plan for Alexei Navalny?
Those are religious questions. But for policy, there is no question: America should back and encourage those who risk their lives and their future for the freedom of their fellow citizens. Free people of the world, led by the United States, should bear witness. And if necessary--let's hope in this case it's not necessary--scream bloody murder.