The daughter of Putin critic Alexei Navalny fought back tears as she described living with the reality that her father could be killed in a new documentary about the opposition leader.
Stanford student Dasha Navalny, 21, also known as Daria, described how she had come to the realisation that her father’s life is at risk when she was just 13 years old.
‘Starting from 13 years old, I would think about “what would I do if my dad was killed?”,’ she said in 98-minute documentary Navalny, which aired on BBC Two last night and premiered in the US this week.
‘We never had “the talk”, it’s not something you can sit at the table and discuss [the fact that his life was at risk].’
Stanford student Dasha Navalny, 21, also known as Daria, described how she had come to the realisation that her father’s life is at risk when she was just 13 years old
Dasha, pictured, fought back tears as she spoke about how her dad risks missing major milestones simply for ‘doing the right thing’
Fighting back tears, Dasha continued: ‘There was a point a year ago where my dad was almost not there for my high school graduation. He was in jail, once again.
‘The whole day I was just thinking about how my dad would have been proud to see me walk on the stage and get my certificate. And he wouldn’t get that option because he was in jail for doing the right thing.’
Dasha, who has a younger brother, appears alongside her mother Yulia in the documentary, which follows Navalny as he prepares to return to Russia after an attempt on his life in August 2020.
Navalny – a politician and pro-democracy campaigner who has built his platform on publicly criticising Putin as a ‘corrupt thief’ – was flying from Tomsk to Moscow when he fell gravely ill with suspected novichok poisoning.
Dasha, who has a brother, appears alongside her mother Yulia in the documentary, pictured together, which follows Navalny as he prepares to return to Russia after an attempt on his life
The documentary offers a glimpse at family life in the Navalny household, with cameras filming as Alexei and Yulia prepare to send daughter Dasha back to university (pictured)
Alexei shares a hug with his daughter Dasha as he prepares to send her off to university. Dasha said she was proud of her father for returning to Russia despite the dangers
The plane made an emergency landing and Navalny was whisked away to a hospital where doctors insisted there was no evidence of foul play and claimed anything from a health condition to ‘drinking moonshine’ was to blame.
But there were claims the hospital was full of agents of the security service FSB, and his wife Yulia was initially prevented from seeing her husband.
In an extraordinary turn of events, medics later allowed him to be discharged and airlifted to a German hospital where he received treatment.
‘To have your dad, an opposition leader, being poisoned by… we don’t know what, we don’t know how, we don’t know when,’ Dasha recalled. ‘And just be in a random hospital. It was surreal. It was like a book.’
Navalny was arrested in January 2021 after he landed in Russia following an attempt on his life. Above, the politician standing inside a glass cell during a court hearing in Moscow
Dasha Navalny, Maria Pevchikh (Poducer) and Yulia Navalny at the premiere of Navalny in New York earlier this month
Doctors concluded he had been poisoned with a nerve agent from the same class used in the 2018 attack in Salisbury on ex-Soviet spy Sergei Skripal. Navalny blamed Putin for the attack.
The Kremlin said it had no evidence that Navalny was poisoned and denied any Russian role if he was.
His poisoning and arrest sparked widespread condemnation abroad as well as sanctions from Western capitals.
Moscow’s FSB agency – the successor to the KGB – allegedly began tracking Mr Navalny after he announced plans to run against the Russian president.
The documentary uses news reports, interviews and footage from Navalny’s own extensive archive to piece together a potted history of the political path that led to him becoming the Kremlin’s most outspoken critic, including a video of him attending a far-right rally.
Following the poisoning, Navalny and his family relocated to the Black Forest, in Germany, where they can live in peace and ‘walk for hours’ without bumping into anyone.
While recovering in Germany, he teamed up with Bellingcat investigative journalist Christo Grozev in an attempt to uncover who was behind the poisoning.
Grozev explains on camera how he pieced together the plot that led to the uncovering of a web of FSB agents suspected in Navalny’s poisoning.
Using phone numbers bought on the Russian dark web, Grozev was able to follow a trail to agents including a chemist and ex-military figures.
Agents were said to have kept Mr Navalny under surveillance on at least 37 trips before he was eventually poisoned on a flight from Siberia to Moscow in August 2021.
They would take parallel flights or trains, travelling in twos or threes, mixing up teams to avoid being spotted and often using aliases, the report claimed.
The chain of command led to the top of the FSB and, ultimately, to Putin.
The Kremlin denied Putin’s involvement and suggested Mr Navalny was working with the CIA.
Bellingcat named three FSB officers who trailed the lawyer as he travelled from Moscow to Siberia in August, and a further five agents said to have been involved in the operation.
The website, which worked with CNN in the US, Der Spiegel in Germany and The Insider in Russia, said it used telecoms records and travel data, including flight manifests, to track the agents’ movements.
Navalny is a politician and pro-democracy campaigner who has built his platform on publicly criticising Putin as a ‘corrupt thief’. Pictured, the Russian president yesterday
Cameras recorded Navalny as he phoned the agents one by one to ask them why they did it and eventually recorded one agent calmly discussing how he had placed novichok on the politician’s underwear.
Despite the risk to his life, Navalny felt it essential he returned to Russia.
‘They are offended because they tried to kill me and I survived,’ Nalvany said ahead of his return. ‘So now they’re threatening to throw me in jail.
‘Putin might as well hang a banner over the Kremlin: “Alexei, please, do not under any circumstances come back home.” And so I immediately went online and bought tickets for my return trip.’
Dasha was supportive of her father’s decision, saying: ‘I know that my dad misses Russia, even though it’s scary to go back. And if he didn’t go back, I would say “you need to go back and fight”. It’s something worth fighting for.’
There was optimism before Navalny boarded the flight but the documentary ends with him being arrested in Moscow.
‘They are so scared of Alexei that they had to lock down everything around here,’ his wife Yulia told cameras after he was arrested.
‘The most important thing Alexei said today is, he’s not afraid. And I’m not afraid either, and I urge you not to be afraid.’
Alexei remains in prison where he faces up to 20 years.