The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion An Oscar win reignites the dream for Russia to be free

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is seen on a screen during a hearing on May 24 in Russia. (Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters)
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The film “Navalny,” awarded best documentary feature film at the Academy Awards on Sunday, is not being screened at maximum security penal colony No. 6 east of Moscow where its star, Alexei Navalny, sits in solitary confinement. Nor is it being shown in public in Russia.

But the film’s well-deserved Oscar, with the spotlight it brings, should be a reminder of the enormous stakes for Russia and the world in the current calamity of war and dictatorship. “Aleksei, I am dreaming of the day when you will be free and our country will be free,” his wife, Yulia Navalnaya, said from the Oscar stage.

Mr. Navalny, the leading opposition voice to President Vladimir Putin, was the target of an assassination attempt by Russian security services using the chemical weapon Novichok in 2020, followed by sham charges of fraud and a prison sentence totaling 11½ years. He has endured maltreatment and isolation from his family — and should be freed.

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Also on the Editorial Board’s agenda
  • The misery of Belarus’s political prisoners should not be ignored.
  • Biden has a new border plan.
  • The United States should keep the pressure on Nicaragua.
  • America’s fight against inflation isn’t over.
  • The Taliban has doubled down on the repression of women.
  • The world’s ice is melting quickly.
Ihar Losik, one of hundreds of young people unjustly jailed in Belarus for opposing Alexander Lukashenko’s dictatorship, attempted suicide but was saved and sent to a prison medical unit, according to the human rights group Viasna. Losik, 30, a blogger who led a popular Telegram channel, was arrested in 2020 and is serving a 15-year prison term on charges of “organizing riots” and “incitement to hatred.” His wife is also a political prisoner. Read more about their struggle — and those of other political prisoners — in a recent editorial.
The Department of Homeland Security has provided details of a plan to prevent a migrant surge along the southern border. The administration would presumptively deny asylum to migrants who failed to seek it in a third country en route — unless they face “an extreme and imminent threat” of rape, kidnapping, torture or murder. Critics allege that this is akin to an illegal Trump-era policy. In fact, President Biden is acting lawfully in response to what was fast becoming an unmanageable flow at the border. Read our most recent editorial on the U.S. asylum system.
Some 222 Nicaraguan political prisoners left that Central American country for the United States in February. President Daniel Ortega released and sent them into exile in a single motion. Nevertheless, it appears that Mr. Ortega let them go under pressure from economic sanctions the United States imposed on his regime when he launched a wave of repression in 2018. The Biden administration should keep the pressure on. Read recent editorials about the situation in Nicaragua.
Inflation remains stubbornly high at 6.4 percent in January. The Federal Reserve’s job is not done in this fight. More interest rate hikes are needed. Read a recent editorial about inflation and the Fed.
Afghanistan’s rulers had promised that barring women from universities was only temporary. But private universities got a letter on Jan. 28 warning them that women are prohibited from taking university entrance examinations. Afghanistan has 140 private universities across 24 provinces, with around 200,000 students. Out of those, some 60,000 to 70,000 are women, the AP reports. Read a recent editorial on women’s rights in Afghanistan.
A new study finds that half the world’s mountain glaciers and ice caps will melt even if global warming is restrained to 1.5 degrees Celsius — which it won’t be. This would feed sea-level rise and imperil water sources for hundreds of millions. Read a recent editorial on how to cope with rising seas, and another on the policies needed to fight climate change.


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As Mr. Navalny wrote in our pages last year, Mr. Putin’s war of aggression not only seeks to destroy Ukraine but also raises the question of what kind of Russia will emerge from the war. Mr. Navalny warned that it could turn toward more militarization and authoritarianism, posing fresh dangers. Or, he suggested, a concerted effort could be made to create a Russian renaissance, taking power out of the hands of one leader and building a parliamentary republic.

It appears unlikely Russia will return to the democratic path it began in 1990s. Much will depend on the war’s outcome. Hopefully, Ukraine will become a thriving, open European society. But we agree with Mr. Navalny that postwar Russia must escape Mr. Putin’s grip and the oppressive autocracy he has imposed.

The Post’s View | About the Editorial Board

Editorials represent the views of The Post as an institution, as determined through debate among members of the Editorial Board, based in the Opinions section and separate from the newsroom.

Members of the Editorial Board and areas of focus: Opinion Editor David Shipley; Deputy Opinion Editor Karen Tumulty; Associate Opinion Editor Stephen Stromberg (national politics and policy, legal affairs, energy, the environment, health care); Lee Hockstader (European affairs, based in Paris); David E. Hoffman (global public health); James Hohmann (domestic policy and electoral politics, including the White House, Congress and governors); Charles Lane (foreign affairs, national security, international economics); Heather Long (economics); Associate Editor Ruth Marcus; and Molly Roberts (technology and society).