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What Does Putin Stand to Gain (and Lose) by Going After Navalny?

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny has survived his brush with a Russian nerve agent. But the attempt on his life says a lot about what Russia has become.

Navalny was for a long time considered to be too famous and too popular to be quietly dispatched. As news broke that he had been poisoned, the analyst Tatiana Stanovaya noted that his death was seen as a “nightmare scenario” in the Kremlin, one that risked triggering mass protests against the regime, which has become increasingly unpopular in recent years.

But it seems that calculus shifted in the wake of a constitutional referendum earlier this year, which gave Russian President Vladimir Putin the ability to run for two more terms—signaling a retreat from even the trappings of democracy.

“After constitutional reform we are dealing with a  completely new political regime. This regime is much more conservative, less tolerant, more repressive,” said Stanovaya, the founder of the political analysis firm R. Politik. “After this we can expect things which we couldn’t expect before from Putin’s regime,” she said.

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