AFP was on the plane on Jan. 17, 2021, when Alexei Navalny returned to Russia despite the near certainty of imprisonment. Who is this seemingly fearless man, a social media star with a sardonic sense of humor? Friends, experts and his critics answer the question, with some pointing to a "nationalist," even "racist" past. But more than anything, Navalny has become a thorn in the side of a Russian elite whose alleged corruption he has worked to expose.
With interviews of Nikolai Khorzov, AFP video journalist; Sergei Guriev, economics professor at Sciences Po university; Evgeny Feldman, photographer; Darya Navalnaya (Instagram archive); Maria Lipman, political analyst, George Washington University; Valery Fiodorov, director of the Russian polling institute VTsIOM; Pyotr Tolstoy, deputy speaker of the State Duma; Alexei Navalny (archives)