After the fall of communism, Russia faced a choice between growing authoritarianism and kleptocracy or more freedom, democracy and ultimately prosperity.

Alexei Navalny embodied that alternative to the dark years of Vladimir Putin. He represented a future many there yearn for – a vision dealt a body blow by his death.

The interview acquired by Sky News underlines what Mr Navalny offered. It reminds us of what he was, a new kind of politician for Russia, young charismatic, forward looking and engaging.

“I am an optimist,” he tells the camera in the interview four years ago, “I hope that this 20 years of Putin is not set in stone. We weren’t doomed to it, we weren’t meant to go in that direction.”

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player


Unseen Navalny interview unearthed

It was one of the last interviews he would give in full health A few months later he was poisoned before spending three years in jail and ultimately dying in custody.

It was never inevitable Russia would take the path it has under Mr Putin, Mr Navalny always believed. But he was withering about the damage it has done to the country.

“The entire Putin elite is absolutely corrupt, and it is absolutely colonially minded. They have moved all their families, their children, their assets to the West, and they treat our country as a free hunting zone; and that’s exactly how it works.”

More on Alexei Navalny

Mr Navalny and his organisation fought with extraordinary courage against that corruption, with video exposes claiming to show the lavish lifestyles of Mr Putin and his elite.

The interview gives insights into what that meant for his staff and supporters:

“It will probably be difficult to find a single person in our office who has not been arrested for a period of 10, 15 or 30 days. And many have criminal cases against them that are either suspended or are ongoing.”

But some of Mr Navalny’s strongest words are against the West and Britain in particular for letting Mr Putin and his cronies get away with it.

Mr Navalny described the lawyers and others in the UK who enable Russians to bring their money here and buy respectability.

Alexei Navalny is seen behind the bars in the police van after he was detained during protests in Moscow in 2012
Alexei Navalny is seen behind the bars in the police van after he was detained during protests in Moscow in 2012
Pic: AP

“These people, they will appear very civilised, we will be pleased to chat with them if they sit next to us, they will be wearing a tie and fine manners, and at the same time they are serving the interests of utter, complete bandits.”

It is a damning indictment from beyond the grave of the way London and the UK has allegedly enabled Mr Putin and his cronies to stash their dirty money abroad.

One Russian exile who knew Mr Navalny told us the sanctions imposed by the UK in the wake of Mr Navalny’s death have also been inadequate.

Read more:
Russia denies claim Navalny was poisoned with novichok
Who is Alexei Navalny’s wife Yulia?

“He liked humour so I feel like he would laugh at this point because from what we’ve seen in recent days, if this is everything we’re going to see in response to Navalny’s death, they look quite weak and a bit pathetic.”

Mr Navalny always maintained the Putin years have been an aberration. Russia will eventually revert to a freer more open future he claimed.

While he was alive that vision seemed more plausible. Without him it is harder to imagine Russia ever recovering from the ordeal imposed by Mr Putin.

He tells the interviewer: “I hope that 10 years from now, if you interview me again, I’ll be able to tell you how we managed to overcome the corrupt money laundering.”

Aspirations for Russia that now seem even more hopeless without him.