In March 2017, prominent Kremlin critic and anticorruption activist Alexei Navalny released a shocking video investigation into the secret finances of Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian prime minister. It revealed that Medvedev has been able to amass a tremendous fortune while in power, acquiring several mansions in Russia, a villa and property in Italy, and other assets worth roughly $1.2 billion. The investigation sparked a great deal of interest among Russians, and it has received almost 26 million views on YouTube as of this writing. In the weeks that followed the video’s release, Russia witnessed large-scale anticorruption protests across the country. Although Navalny had announced his plans to run for president in December 2016, these demonstrations marked the unofficial start of his campaign. From the beginning, however, it was clear that the Kremlin would not tolerate a Navalny candidacy and would retaliate to block his activities throughout Russia. Indeed, the government recently announced that his name will not appear on the presidential ballot in March of 2018. Despite this blow, however, the regime has nevertheless largely failed to suppress both Navalny’s and his followers’ political activities. Although he may be barred from formally seeking office, Navalny will remain a central challenge for the Putin government. He has been able to create a highly motivated independent political machine operating across the country, one that is capable of presenting a genuine alternative to Putin’s authoritarianism to the next generation of Russians.
THE OPPOSITION GAINS MOMENTUM
Over the course of the last year Navalny and his team have demonstrated that despite state restrictions, political pressure, and the presumed political passivity of the Russian public, a devoted opposition movement can build real momentum in the country. His team was able to open 84 regional offices, attracting more than 200,000 volunteers across Russia. His YouTube channel, which is especially popular among younger Russians, offers regular updates via short videos that provide commentaries on corruption, major events in Russia, and the state of his campaign; it also features an online live talk
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