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He cheated death, but can Navalny ever break Putin’s grip on Russia?

Now in recovery after a novichok attack, the opposition leader has pledged to return home to campaign ahead of elections next year. But the odds are stacked against him

It has been an eventful few weeks for Ksenia Fadeyeva, who runs Alexei Navalny’s operations in the Siberian city of Tomsk. In mid-August, she welcomed the Russian opposition leader to this university town in the heart of the country’s vast landmass, to make a pre-election video about local corruption, as part of Fadeyeva’s bid to win election to the city council.

It was on the plane back to Moscow from Tomsk that Navalny suddenly fell ill, and ended up in a coma, fighting for his life. German doctors say he was poisoned with a novichok nerve agent, apparently in his Tomsk hotel room.

Aside from novichok, perhaps the biggest problem for any politician in Russia now is apathy, and the feeling that sociologists call “learned helplessness” – a decision based on experience that attempts to change things are pointless… The presidential administration is instead focusing on the newer, more agreeable opposition forces to provide this sense of change without rocking the boat. “The final goal is to have a pool of candidates who would be chosen by the Kremlin and could participate in state Duma elections next year to create a feeling of rotation,” said political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya.

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