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What happens when transparency ceases?

He risks death or, at the very least, becoming physically and emotionally broken.

But as much as the outside world can see, so far Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny remains resolute.

Only a few months into his 2 1/2 -year Russian prison sentence on charges of violating terms of a suspended sentence while he was in Germany, Navalny somehow is remaining unwavering and relevant, even behind bars in a penal colony near Moscow.

The sentence stemmed from a 2014 embezzlement conviction, but Navalny, the most adamant opponent and critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has said the embezzlement allegations are politically driven.

Navalny was arrested in January after returning to Russia from Germany where he spent five months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin — accusations Russian officials reject. European labs have confirmed that Navalny was poisoned.

Just about two months after his incarceration began, Navalny faced the possibility of becoming forgotten. His name returned to international news, however, with reports that he had begun a hunger strike inside the Russian prison. Weeks into it, doctors proclaimed he could die at any time. His captors now say, however, he has ended the hunger strike — but who’s to know for sure what happens inside Russian prison walls? It isn’t America, after all.

Few of us can imagine horrors he must be experiencing. Yet, against all odds, Navalny continues to bring attention

to his opposition of

Putin.

It was hundreds of years ago when the founders of our great nation fought for their independence from England. The battles were bloody, the frontier’s conditions were brutal, food and medical supplies were scant and disease was rampant.

Yet, they fought on, also against all odds so we could enjoy benefits of liberty and freedom, even today.

It’s hardly the same situation in Russia today. But how can anyone not admire incredible resolve of people like Navalny — and our forefathers — who fight against oppression, risking life and wellbeing?

Now, in what can be viewed only as another attempt by Russian leaders to squelch any hint of uprising or opposition to the Kremlin, this month, the Moscow prosecutor’s office are taking legal action to outlaw Navalny’s foundation network as “extremist groups.” The case is part of a sweeping crackdown on Navalny, his allies and his political infrastructure.

Russian authorities also launched a criminal probe against a lawyer representing a former Russian journalist accused of treason and Navalny’s team, accusing him of disclosing information related to a police investigation.

St. Petersburg-based lawyer Ivan Pavlov appeared in court Friday and was ordered not to contact witnesses in the case, and was banned from using the Internet or cellphone.

The Associated Press reports opposition supporters, independent journalists and human rights activists have been facing increasing government pressure in Russia.

Pavlov said the accusations against him are connected to his defense of Ivan Safronov, a former Russian journalist charged with treason in a case widely seen as retribution for his journalistic work. The case against Pavlov was opened shortly after he started

representing the Foundation for Fighting Corruption, founded by Navalny.

Pavlov’s colleague, Yevgeny Smirnov, told the AP persecution of Pavlov sends a signal to all lawyers: “Don’t even think about working effectively on criminal cases. Don’t even think about speaking out. Don’t even think about defending people.”

This oppression should be remembered when officials in any level of government attempt to control the media or limit communications.

Indeed, we are blessed to live in this free nation where we can speak out in opposition of our government. Many, of course, who disagree with news stories, will criticize the media. But it is the important work of journalists — the fourth estate, empowered by our First Amendment to remain uncontrolled by any form of the government — that has helped to maintain

the freedoms that were envisioned by our forefathers.

Remember, transparency is the key to Democracy. As The Washington Post slogan so aptly states, “Democracy dies in darkness.”

blinert@tribtoday.com

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