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Since Russians began protesting opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s imprisonment, the security forces have apparently had carte blanche to arrest demonstrators — and they have done so by the thousands. If Russians so much as honk their car horns in solidarity with the protesters, they risk personal repercussions. The official response to the protests goes beyond the Kremlin’s past repression. It is war.

Navalny has long been a prominent opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin. But his arrest — immediately upon returning to Moscow from Germany, where he had spent months recovering from a (presumably) Kremlin-ordered poisoning — has turned him (as well as his comrades-in-arms, many of whom have also been arrested) into something of a moral authority as well.

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