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CNN Live Event/Special

Russian Opposition Leader Alexey Navalny Defiant Despite 775th Day In Prison; Exclusive: Navalny's Daughter Speaks To CNN About Father's Condition; Lead Russia Investigator At Bellingcat On Alexey Navalny's Attempted Assassination. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired March 03, 2023 - 21:00   ET




ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST (voice-over): He's the man Vladimir Putin wants to silence, fighting for his life, tonight, in a brutal Russian penal colony.

Putin opposition leader, Alexey Navalny, was poisoned with a nerve agent, and miraculously survived, an assassination attempt that CNN helped to trace back, to a Russian intelligence unit.

ALEXEY NAVALNY, RUSSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER: I understand that Putin hates me. And I understand that these people, who are sitting in the Kremlin, they arranged to kill.

BURNETT (voice-over): I'll speak to his daughter, Dasha, about what she's hearing, from her father, and why her family was ready for this fight.

DASHA NAVALNAYA, DAUGHTER OF ALEXEY NAVALNY: If he didn't go back, I would say, "You need to go back and fight."

BURNETT (voice-over): Plus, I'll be joined by Christo Grozev, an investigative journalist, who helped crack the case, on Navalny's would-be assassins. He's on Putin's "Wanted list."

And I'll talk to Daniel Roher, the Director of the award-winning Oscar-nominated CNN film, "Navalny."

And Alexey Navalny is far from alone. We'll have a special report on Putin's other political enemies.


BURNETT: Good evening, I am Erin Burnett. And welcome to a CNN Primetime Special, NAVALNY AND THE COST OF STANDING UP TO PUTIN.

For top Russian opposition leader, Alexey Navalny, it nearly cost him his life, and he is still paying, and dearly so. Alexey Navalny is not the only one, who dared cross Putin. And some have paid the ultimate price, like Russia's most prominent investigative journalist that we're going to tell you about, gunned down, in her own apartment building, or a vocal Putin critic shot with inside of the Kremlin. Of course, the Kremlin claims they have nothing to do with any of it.

No Putin nemesis has captured the world's attention quite like Alexey Navalny. His story, prompting an outpouring, of support, around the world, and documented, in the award-winning Oscar-nominated film, "Navalny," that captures, in vivid detail, Navalny's poisoning, and the pursuit of his would-be assassins.


NAVALNY: It's impossible to believe it. It's kind of stupid. The whole idea of poisoning with a chemical weapon with - this is why this is so smart.


BURNETT: Before I speak to Alexey Navalny's daughter, Dasha, in an exclusive interview, I want to go to Clarissa Ward, who played a crucial role, in exposing the men, behind the plot, to kill Alexey.

And Clarissa, Alexey Navalny, tonight, is in solitary confinement, at least eight years of his sentence still to serve, I emphasize, at least. What can you tell us about his condition, tonight?


Navalny's lawyers are warning that his health has been steadily deteriorating, since he's been imprisoned. They say, he's lost more than 15 pounds, that he's having crippling stomach pains, because he's being improperly prescribed very strong antibiotics.

The U.S. and the EU have said he must be released, and given immediate medical care.



WARD (voice-over): Alexey Navalny, in 2017, taking on Putin, and exposing corruption, among Russia's elites.

Alexey Navalny, now, haggard and gaunt, in solitary confinement, in one of Russia's most brutal penal colonies.

On Valentine's Day, this year, he posted a message, to his wife, Yulia.

"I haven't seen you, Yuliashka, for a terribly long time, but in my heart, there's a lot of you," it read.

As a couple, they've endured much, harassment, separation, death threats. But nothing prepared them, for the attempt to kill Navalny, with a deadly toxin.


WARD (voice-over): August 20th, 2020, on a flight, from Tomsk, in Siberia, to Moscow, a passenger captured Navalny's anguish.

NAVALNY: I turn over to the flight attendant, and said him, "I was poisoned. I'm going to die." And then - then I laid down, under his feet and to - to die.

WARD (voice-over): The flight diverted. Two days later, a comatose Navalny was flown to Berlin. Germany soon disclosed he'd been poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent, Novichok.

CNN joined investigative group, Bellingcat, to find out who was behind it, leading us to this building, in Moscow.

WARD (on camera): We're staying in the car because we don't want to attract any attention. But this compound is part of the Institute of Criminalistics, of the FSB, Russia's Security Service. And beyond that fence, an elite team of operatives has been tracking Navalny's every move, for more than three years.


WARD (voice-over): CNN and Bellingcat examined phone records, and flight manifests that revealed the communications, and movements, of the FSB group.


WARD (voice-over): And discovered, it was activated, just days, after Navalny announced he would run for president in 2018.

We presented the findings, to Navalny, in Germany, as he recovered from the poisoning.

WARD (on camera): Would it surprise you to learn that some of these men went on more than 30 trips, with you, over the course of three years?

NAVALNY: This is absolutely terrifying.

WARD (voice-over): Four months, after Navalny was poisoned, our search for the perpetrators took us to an apartment block, on the edge of Moscow.

The home of operative, Oleg Tayakin.

WARD (on camera): My name is Clarissa Ward. I work for CNN. Can I ask you a couple of questions? (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).


WARD (on camera): (FOREIGN LANGUAGE). Was it your team that poisoned Navalny, please? Do you have any comment?

He doesn't seem to want to talk to us.

WARD (voice-over): As we visited Tayakin, Navalny himself was calling another member, of the FSB team, pretending to be a senior official, in Putin's National Security Council.

NAVALNY: Konstantin?

WARD (voice-over): Konstantin Kudryavtsev was hesitant at first, but then revealed, his job was to ensure there was no Novichok left, on Navalny's clothes.


KONSTANTIN KUDRYAVTSEV, FSB OPERATIVE (through translator): The underpants.

WARD (voice-over): In a 45-minute call, Kudryavtsev also acknowledged that the pilot, diverting the flight that day, likely saved Navalny's life.

KUDRYAVTSEV (through translator): If the flight was a bit longer, I think things would have gone the other way.

WARD (voice-over): An explosive confession, days after President Putin himself had denied any attempt, to poison Navalny.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): You see, if we wanted to, we would have finished it.

WARD (voice-over): Despite everything, Navalny insisted to us, he would return to Russia.

WARD (on camera): You're aware of the risks of going back?

NAVALNY: Yes. But I'm Russian politician. And I would never give Putin such a gift.

WARD (voice-over): On January 17th, 2021, he arrived in Moscow, and was immediately arrested. He's been behind bars, ever since, and has at least eight years of a jail term yet to serve, unable to see his wife, Yulia, and children Dasha and Zahar.


WARD: Even in prison, Erin, Navalny has refused to be silenced.

He has been a very vocal critic, of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. And just last week, he put out a long thread, on Twitter, basically saying that he believes Russia will be defeated, in Ukraine, and outlining his vision, for a post-war Russia.

And his family and his supporters are very much hoping that by keeping his story, in the public eye that might just offer him some increased protection.


BURNETT: All right, Clarissa, thank you so much.

And Dasha Navalnaya is here, with me, tonight, in an exclusive interview.

Dasha, as we were watching that, I know you have seen that so many times, but you're watching your father. And you have been now waiting to see what's going to happen. What can you tell us about how he's doing, right now?

NAVALNAYA: First of all, I want to say thank you so much for having me on the show. It's an amazing opportunity. And as Clarissa said, it's incredibly important to keep his name, in the news.

Currently, my father is in a cell-type facility. It's a little bit better than a penal colony. And the main issue and the main problem that we are having is the limited access that we have to him.

Because, the prison guards, and the prison administration, are completely taking away his right to attorney-client privilege, and the attorneys are only able to see him, through a guarded veil, so, we can't really know for sure his health circumstance.

And he hasn't seen his family in over half a year. I haven't seen him in-person, in over a year. And it's quite concerning, considering that his health is getting worse and worse.

BURNETT: And, the last time, I guess it was at September 2021. It was a long time ago.


BURNETT: And you saw him, and you just turned 21. So, you were able to visit him. But it was, again, as you're talking about, right, it was through glass, and through that veil.

And in early February, he tweeted and, again, I always want to be clear, people understand, it's not like he can tweet.


BURNETT: He's able to somehow get a message out, someone else post it.


"The main torment of imprisonment is, of course, the inability to see the faces of your family, to talk to you loved ones. I haven't had any visits for eight months and yesterday I was told that I'd be transferred to a cell-type facility for the maximum possible term of six months. No visits are allowed there. This means more than a year without a visit."

NAVALNAYA: Yes. BURNETT: How hard is it just to even read that?

NAVALNAYA: Ah, well, it's incredibly difficult and hard. But I understand that, since they're taking these such radical measures, to take him away, from his family, from his supporters, from making an effort, to free his beloved country, then he must be doing something right, then we must be doing something right, towards the goal.

BURNETT: Towards the goal of having a democratic, a free Russia.


BURNETT: I mean, your father is, obviously, it's currently a nine-year sentence. And I know that that you can put that in quotation marks, right?


BURNETT: And that's the big question. Do you believe, your mother and your brother, do you, his family, believe that he will ever be free, as long as Putin is the ruler of Russia?

NAVALNAYA: He's currently facing up to 35 years, in separate different cases, so, above those 10 years that he is currently serving. I like to keep it light and positive and hopeful. And I think our family's approach is entirely like that. He's fighting for what's right. And I think that it's possible for him to get out. And I want him to.


NAVALNAYA: As a daughter.

BURNETT: Of course.

NAVALNAYA: I have to keep that outlook.

BURNETT: To keep that hope alive.

So, what do you say to - I mean, and I understand, I mean, not saying this - and that that's - he's going to listen to a reasonable argument. But what do you say to Putin?

NAVALNAYA: I say, I have a couple of things, to say to him, that he should stop this incredibly unnecessary and terrible invasion of Ukraine, that he should release my father, and all of Russia's political prisoners, who are just fighting, for a better democratic, more prosperous country. And that until those two primary goals, among others are met, we will not stop fighting.

BURNETT: And when you talk about that, I know, obviously, you grew up in Russia. You spent your life there, right? You're obviously in the United States, now. You're in school.

Do you have friends, you still talk to that are there? And what do they - how do they feel about all this?

NAVALNAYA: My parents are incredibly--


NAVALNAYA: My friends in Russia are incredibly supportive. I went, up until college, I went to kindergarten, elementary school, and middle school, and high school, in Moscow.

And all of my friends know me as not Alexey Navalny's daughter, but as me. And they've seen this transformation, of my father's political career, and they know how good and how passionate of a person he is. From just this charismatic point of view, they know that he wants the best for the country, and they support him.

BURNETT: And how hard is it, for them, in Russia, right now? It's so hard for people to understand what really is going on, what people really think, because polls don't show the reality. Obviously, you don't see it from the media there. What is your feeling?

NAVALNAYA: Whenever I get to talk to my friends, they say that, economy - the economy is crumbling, and it's getting harder to live, and it's an incredibly police state.

Right - one of my friends told me that right now, when you go, into the subway station, it's filled with policemen, trying to search for guys, to just take, and swift off to the - to the army, to send off to Ukraine.


NAVALNAYA: And it's terrifying. It's scary for my friends, for any other Russian, because, you lose your job, you lose custody of your children, you lose a prospect of getting an education. People get killed over this. And it's incredibly scary, to live, in Russia, right now.

BURNETT: And yet, I know that you at some point want to go there, because it's home?

NAVALNAYA: Right. I'm born, raised there. My grandparents are there. And my best friends are there. I love Moscow. I think that Moscow is the greatest city on earth. And I want to go back.

BURNETT: And what do you think your father will do? I mean, I know it's only - it's hard to imagine what's happened to him. I mean, just the mental anguish, right that he's gone through. But yet, the strength that we see anytime he tweets, right, the resiliency and the strength?


BURNETT: What do you think he will do if he gets out?


NAVALNAYA: Well, he will continue fighting, up until Russia is a country that's able to have free and fair elections. My - that's the main goal of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, is for Russia to become a free state, to have open elections, to have freedom of press, freedom of speech, and just any - to have the opportunity, to become a part of the normal Western democratized community in the world.

BURNETT: All right, well, Dasha, please stay with me.

Dasha is going to be with us here, for this special hour.

And next, the investigative journalist, who uncovered the suspects, behind Navalny's poisoning, is going to join us. He's now on Putin's "Wanted list." And he'll talk about his own safety, and how he fears for that.

And the Director behind the Oscar-nominated CNN film, "Navalny," why he calls the experience, of making this documentary, "Lightning in a bottle."

They're both going to join Dasha and myself right after this.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you come to room of a comatose patient, if you're starting - if you're just telling him the news, telling him his story, "Alexey, don't worry. You were poisoned. There was a murder attempt. Putin tried to kill you with Novichok."


And he opened his like blue eyes, wide, and looked at me, and said, very clear, (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

ON SCREEN TEXT: "What the f**kk? That is so stupid!"

NAVALNY: Come on! Poisoned? I don't believe it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like he's back! This is Alexey.

NAVALNY: Putin's supposed to be not so stupid to use this Novichok.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His word, and his explanations, his intention.

NAVALNY: If you want to kill someone just shoot him! Jesus Christ!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like real Alexey.

NAVALNY: It's impossible to believe it. It's kind of stupid. The whole idea of poisoning, with a chemical weapon, with - this is why this is so smart. Because even reasonable people, they refuse to believe like "What? Come on! Poisoned? Seriously?"


BURNETT: And welcome back to a Special Edition of CNN Primetime, NAVALNY AND THE COST OF STANDING UP TO PUTIN.

The clip that you just saw is from the award-winning Oscar-nominated CNN film, "Navalny."

And here with me now are Christo Groza, Executive Director and the lead Russian investigator, for Bellingcat, who tracked down, and identified the men, who poisoned Navalny.

Daniel Roher, the Director, of the Academy Award-nominated documentary, "Navalny."

And Dasha Navalnaya, the director - the daughter, I'm sorry--

NAVALNAYA: It's all right.

BURNETT: --of Alexey Navalny, is back with me, as well.

So, thanks to all of you.

So, Christo, we're watching that right, as you had discovered this plot, and what was in it. And now, you're still learning, I understand, from your reporting, even more now, about what actually happened. What can you share with us?

CHRISTO GROZEV, LEAD RUSSIA INVESTIGATOR AT BELLINGCAT: Absolutely. But first, I need to correct. I'm no longer Executive Director. I'm lead investigator, on Russia topics. And that's what I love doing.

What we find out in the meantime, is that there was much more effort, by Putin's thugs, to actually prepare, and to prepare for the cleaning up, of the evidence, of the traces, of what they were doing. We found at least two more people, who were sent to Tomsk Square, the attempted murder was going to take place. They were sent, in the middle of the night, just before the poisoning took place.

Now, these were people, like Kudryavtsev, from the film, who had one specialization, they were cleaning up. So, they knew that that night will be the night they would try to kill him. And they were sent there to clean him up.

We found out essentially more people than we thought, so a total of about 12 people, who were directly involved with this attempted assassination.

BURNETT: 12 people. And yet, they failed, although, obviously he is - he is paying the price, for choosing to go back to Russia.

Dasha, you hear that 12 people, they found even more people. How does that - how do you even process that?

NAVALNAYA: I process it in a way that the whole system of Putin's assassination attempts, and killing him - assassination attempts, is so flawed, and so bad that even 12 people couldn't kill a person, a politician, which means that the fight that we're fighting, right now, with Putin's regime, is very - we can win it.

BURNETT: It's winnable?


BURNETT: That's an interesting - that's a really amazing way of seeing it.

And Daniel, I have to say it is - if anyone hasn't seen it, they've got to see. It's one of the most incredible films, I've ever seen.


BURNETT: And I've watched it a few times, because it defies belief. It's like you're watching--


BURNETT: --a spy novel. And you're thinking, this is - this is a reality show that - but this is it's real. And I'm just wondering how you felt watching this happen, as the cameras were rolling, and saying, "Wow, this is real life unrolling in front of me?"

ROHER: Well, it's this extraordinary thing, when you're making documentaries. Sometimes, you find yourself in these unbelievable places, and these unbelievable situations. And I think this film especially embodies the spirit of that.

Here, I was, some guy, from Toronto, Canada, who had never really delved into foreign policy, in any meaningful way, next to the leader, of the Russian opposition, in the Black Forest of Germany, as he was recovering, from an assassination attempt, and I was with Christo, and Dasha, and the rest of our colleagues, as they were trying to uncover and litigate, the details, of who tried to poison Navalny.

The sense of making the film is very similar to the sensibility of watching the film, this sort of jaw-on-the-floor disbelief.


ROHER: I couldn't believe I was living through it. And it's still - there's still a cognitive dissidence, in my mind. I still can't believe that I made this film, and this all happened.

BURNETT: But it's - this is why I watch - have watched it multiple times.


BURNETT: Because every time I watch it, I am stunned. And I think that's - I mean, that's the - it speaks to the film itself, and it speaks to what happened.

I mean, in the film, Dasha, we see you, the night before your father called the man, who poisoned him, right, when he, impersonated sort of a boss, in the FSB, and called them. And you were helping him test the phone line, as a younger person would be needed to do, for an older person! So, the next day he makes the phone call that you hear in the film, and someone involved in trying to kill your father is speaking, very matter of fact (ph), about what went wrong, and how they tried to put it in the underpants, and the whole thing, and why your father survived. It's all very matter of fact.


What kind of emotions were you experiencing, when you heard that, in real-time?

NAVALNAYA: First, anger, of course. Then, a sense of relief.

Back to the previous point that I made, it's incredible how flawed the system is. And the fact that they're just, saying this information, out there, and they're so easily manipulated, it's just astonishing, and it's funny, and it's so stupid that I - I'm, here, and I'm fighting for my dad, and it's cool, and I'm here with amazing people.


NAVALNAYA: And I'm very grateful that their system is so flawed that that makes our fight easier.

BURNETT: And, when you hear Christo talk about--


BURNETT: --how he's doing, found more--


BURNETT: --more people involved?


BURNETT: What does that say to you and what you're - how you see this?

ROHER: I call it the economy of morons. Oftentimes people ask me, am I afraid for my safety? Having made this film that takes on the Russian government, do I feel fear? And I tell them, "Watch the movie. These guys are such morons. How many - how many guys does it take to assassinate one dude? They couldn't even get the job done."

BURNETT: I mean, it's like a lightbulb joke, right?

ROHER: It's like - exactly. How many Russian morons does it take to assassinate one dissident? Well, clearly more than 12 or 15 or whoever was on, on that specific kill team. And it's this concept that we explore in the film, Moscow 4.

Christo once hacked the email of a high-ranking GRU general, whose first email was Moscow, and then Moscow 2, and then Moscow 3, and then Christo crack the last one, Moscow 4. And that joke, that expression has become our catch-all, for the ineptitude, of Russian - Russia's Security Services. And I think we see the exact same ineptitude, thank God, playing out in Ukraine. These guys are doing a terrible job, because they are such morons.

BURNETT: Now, Dasha, I want to play the moment in the film, when your father, knowing - he knew what was going to happen to him, right?

With 99 percent certainty, he knew if he went back, to Moscow, he was going to be arrested, and he was going to be put away for a very long time. And he chose to do it anyway, because he believed that the ultimate victory for Putin would be that he just give up, and stay out, and be an exiled opposition leader.

So, he's on the plane. He is - it's approaching Moscow, starting to lose altitude, coming into land. And here's the moment. Let's play it.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They're headed away from the airport.


This is the plane. And this is Moscow. And this is the plane. And this is Moscow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): So far, it's not clear what they are doing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Dear friends, captain speaking. We are not permitted to land at Vnukovo Airport due to technical issues on the ground. There are several other flights circling ahead of us.

NAVALNY (through translator): I would like to apologize to everyone!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We were expecting this!


BURNETT: Your father's incredible humor stands out, by the way, all the way through this, in some of the darkest moments.

And look, you were very clear that you supported his decision to go back, you were wholehearted about that. What made him strong enough to do something that very few people, alive, would do? I have always just tried to understand that. You know him better than anybody.

NAVALNAYA: I asked my - I've been asking myself that question my entire life. He's an incredible dad, a loving husband, and a charismatic, very strong leader.

And the reason why, as shown in the movie, they turn around the plane, to go to another airport, is because they don't want to see, the Russian and the international community, to see how much of a support, he has, in the country.

I admire him so much. I'm in awe of his strength, and I only can aspire to be as strong as he is. I - maybe his grandparents - I mean, my grandparents, maybe the--

BURNETT: They may--

NAVALNAYA: --that's probably the reason why he's like that.

BURNETT: It is truly amazing though, you know, and Daniel, when you - as you did the film, did you ever get a feel, you mean, as you got to know him?


And actually, as an outsider, right, not knowing him personally, where did you - where did you see that core, that incredible strength that again, I don't know how many people on this planet would have?

ROHER: Well, it's a great question, Erin. And, you know, something that I struggled with as a filmmaker wanting to make a sort of discerning, complex portrait of this guy, is just how likable he is. And that's something we had to factor in from the very first moment. I couldn't be seduced by his charm and his sense of humor if I wanted to have the critical lens necessary to make this film.

And what -- what it turned out to be is that Navalny, I think, really respected and appreciated how -- how much I wanted to make something that challenged him.

BURNETT: And, you know, you, Christo, spent a lot of time with him. You got to know him. His positions on certain things changed.

At one point, right, he thought Crimea should be part of Russia. There were -- there were positions that he had in the past that you had a chance to spend a lot of time with him and see him evolve.

GROZEV: Erin, first of all, I tried to understand him better because the public image of him has been -- well, also not only boosted by his charm but tarnished by concerted efforts to actually create a false impression of who he is.

And, of course, he did certain -- maybe unwise statements early on in his career when he was carving out a place on the spectrum -- on the political spectrum in Russia. It was essentially looking for a niche, a market niche, and that led him to be at probably the wrong place and the wrong time.

So, of course, I had to be critical and try to understand, is he different than that? And that image, that image was actually strongly -- the negative part of that image was strongly pushed by the Kremlin propaganda.


GROZEV: We actually saw that they plotted to present him as a nationalist, as an extreme right figure, which -- and he made certain mistakes that allowed them to create that impression.

So, for me, it was important to get to the core of who he is. I walked away after weeks and weeks and weeks of arguing with him on politics, with the belief that he's a strong believer in liberal democracy, and that he's maybe too honest for his own sake. So he says it outside as he thinks it, and that may make him politically incorrect from the point of view of at least the West.

But I'm happy that some of his positions on issues that I disagreed with -- for example, the Crimea issue has changed. And it hasn't changed radically because we're not that different, but he thought, for example, back then that now that Russia has illegally annexed Crimea, as he kept saying, it's very illegal, it's completely illegal, then at some point in the future, we should give these people the chance to vote one way or another.

And now as we saw from these 15 points that he published the other day, he's graduated beyond that. And he believes the war changes everything. Crimea is Ukraine.


GROZEV: And I'm happy to see that.

BURNETT: Yeah. And it shows you that people change.


BURNETT: Views change. Things change. Circumstances change. People's views change.

GROZEV: And I believe that people like that are also a function of the people around them. And so many people young people were giving him their own view of the world, which is very much like what young people in -- anywhere in the world want.


GROZEV: That he changed as well.

BURNETT: All right. All please stay with me.

And next, a former FSB agent, a prominent investigative journalist, even the former president of the country of Georgia, all Putin foes, all paying a high price for speaking out.



BURNETT: Welcome back to our CNN PRIMETIME special, "Navalny and the Cost of Standing up to Putin".

While Alexey Navalny remains in solitary confinement tonight, serving a nine-year prison sentence, so many of Vladimir Putin's other enemies have been threatened, imprisoned, and killed. Here's our own Matthew Chance.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It takes a certain type of bravery to stand up to the Kremlin. Across the country, police using arrests and beatings to crush dissent against the Ukrainian war.

Some anti-war protesters even drafted into the army in a cruel punishment for pacifism.

Political opposition always a risky business in Putin's Russia, is now essentially outlawed. With prominent opposition leaders like Ilya Yashin recently sentenced to 8 1/2 years in jail for criticizing the conflict. "This will all end soon," he shouts in defiance. But there's little real reason for optimism.

This was Vladimir Kara-Murza, another leading Russian opposition figure, in Moscow back in 2015 after surviving a suspected poisoning at the hands of Kremlin agents. He was allegedly poisoned again in 2017 and survived that, too, only to be imprisoned last April on charges ranging from disobeying the police to treason. The price of silence, Kara-Murza wrote from jail, was simply unacceptable.

The price of speaking out against Putin's Russia is extraordinarily high too. Case in point, the former president of Georgia, whose country lost a brief war with Russia in 2008.

MIKHEIL SAAKASHVILI, FORMER PRESIDENT OF GEORGIA: My small nation will never give up freedom, will never give a square mile.

CHANCE: Two years ago, Mikheil Saakashvili he was imprisoned in Georgia on what his supporters say were trumped-up charges. Now, this onetime Putin foe is at death's door, allegedly poisoned too, and accusing Moscow of orchestrating his plight. The Kremlin rejects the allegation, but his family are adamant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To put somebody in this state after just a year of imprisonment, that was unexpected.

CHANCE: But for years, Kremlin critics have been ruthlessly silenced.

Like Anna Politkovskaya, Russia's most prominent investigative journalist, until she was gunned down in her Moscow apartment building in 2006.

Or Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian FSB agent, poisoned in London in the same year with a radioactive isotope.


In 2018, a former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned in Britain using a potent nerve agent. They survived.

Three years before, Russia's leading opposition figure, Boris Nemtsov soft, was shot dead within sight of the Kremlin. Of course, the Kremlin denies any connection to any crime. But exiled,

jailed, poisoned, or killed, it's how so many of Putin's critics seem to end.

Matthew Chance, CNN, London.


BURNETT: That's sobering to watch that. I mean, Christo, this is what you're leaving every single day, all of you in many ways are living every single day.

When Navalny won the top film award in Britain at the BAFTA, you went, you are all going to be there and you were turned away because the authorities there felt that you are at risk being assassinated while you are there. I understand you're characterizing it at sort of you're in a race to find your killers before they find you?

GROZEV: That's correct. I mean, unusual to be in this situation. It's unusual of somebody to be investigating their own potential would-be killers. It's like -- it's unusual as a doctor operating on their own appendicitis.

But that's what I have to do now, and I'm grateful that the law enforcement agents are both have seen evidence of the risk and they're doing their own investigations at the same time.

BURNETT: It's terrifying, though.

And, Daniel, you know, Navalny had hoped his notoriety in a sense would keep him safe. That he becomes so big that nothing can happen to you.

ROHER: Yeah.

BURNETT: It turned out not to be true as he acknowledged in your documentary. How do you get your head around this? Do you feel immune to it as a Canadian who did this? Or no?

ROHER: Well, when we think about the risk assessment, Erin. I am convinced that I am not of interest to the Russian security services by virtue of the fact that I am a filmmaker. I'm not a journalist. There's a very clear delineation of those two responsibilities.

Christo was the one and his brave colleagues who is contributing original investigative material about the war crimes unfolding in Ukraine, about the murder plot that these thugs are trying to pull off, about the corruption of these oligarchs and the men and women who empower Putin. And I think it's those intrepid investigative journalists like Christo, who are the real heroes, who are the ones who really need to be careful. Not a filmmaker who was just bearing witness.

BURNETT: Right. I mean, perhaps being Russian would change that. I mean, Dasha, your family is so eminently familiar with Putin's tactics and you have to look at these repercussions every day. And how do you and your family live with these fears now?

NAVALNAYA: They're not particularly fears. It's sort of an everyday life approach that I've grown into. I -- it's funny, my parents -- my parents taught my brother and I how to find spies in subway stations. It's sort of this game that we play with each other when we take the metro to go to the center of Moscow for dinner on the weekends, or go to the movies.

We would look around the train, and search out the guy who has the worst camouflage outfit. And the black cap, and the weird strappy bag on the side and we will jump out of -- not out of the train but out of the subway cart before the doors closed, and the looks on their faces every single time, because they're just be confused. Now they lost their subjects.

It's sort of I think -- I think it's optimistic --

BURNETT: Part of the life.

NAVALNAYA: There's an optimistic approach that my parents taught my brother Zahra and. I, it creates a sense of, you know, we can work through it. We're going to fight through it and we're going to have a fun time. And it's going to be difficult, but we're going to be there for each other and will power through it.

BURNETT: A pretty amazing thing, though. I think that puts it all into perspective for people. Imagine that's a game you're playing. And that it was not a game. You actually found the person and they were angry when you're able to get off the car.

Christo, is Putin's powerful is used to be in ordering people to be killed and assassinated?

GROZEV: Well, Erin, I've said this on your show before. I think that with each day of not winning the war in Ukraine, and of losing face, losing face not only internationally but within this own circle of former -- subjects in the power circles, the chances of him ordering successfully an assassination gets smaller because fewer and fewer people want to take those orders. So -- because they cannot be sure that it will be there to protect them in six months, right?

Therefore, he has had to outsource to criminal groups and what we see recently is actually they're not using the same systems that they had before.


They're outsourcing more to crime groups and that is the danger now.

BURNETT: All right. Well, all stay with me.

And next, Alexey Navalny's call to action.


ALEXEY NAVALNY, RUSSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER: My message for the situation when I'm killed is very simple -- not give up.



BURNETT: And welcome back to our CNN PRIMETIME special, "Navalny and the Cost of Standing Up to Putin".

Around the world, supporters of Alexey Navalny are continuing his fight to suppose corruption inside Russia. And they're motivated by Navalny's words in the Oscar nominated CNN film, "Navalny".


NAVALNY: My message, for the situation when I am killed, is very simple -- not give up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do me a favor, answer this one in Russia.

NAVALNY (translated): Listen, I've got something very obvious to tell you. You're not allowed to give up. If they decide to kill me, it means that we are incredibly strong. We need to utilize this power to not give up, to remember we are a huge power that is being oppressed by these bad dudes.


We don't realize how strong we actually are.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing. So don't be inactive.


BURNETT: You can watch the CNN film "Navalny" tomorrow night on CNN at 8:00 Eastern, or you can always extreme it on HBO max.

And next, Dasha Navalnaya on this moment, the last time that she hugged her father, two years ago.


BURNETT: All right, Dasha joins me again now, Alexey Navalny's daughter.

So, you know, we play that moment. It was the last time that you physically we all believe you touched your father, right? You hugged him getting on as you left for Los Angeles. It was captured in the film.

Do you ever think about that, you know, sort of moment as to when you may able -- be able to, I mean, it sounds so banal, but just to even touch him again, to hug him?

NAVALNAYA: Yes. On my birthday, this past birthday, he wrote me a letter, a very sweet one, saying that, you know, Dasha is the word that associates with him as something small and something that you can pick up and twirl around the room.


BURNETT: His little girl.

NAVALNAYA: Yes, his little girl, and now, I'm all grown up. But he's still -- I'm a huge daddy's girl. I love my dad.

I -- it was -- I don't think I quite understood in the moment that it was the last time that I would hug him in the near future. But it was -- it was a big moment and I really miss him. And I'm -- I can't wait to hug him again.

BURNETT: And -- and I guess what would your message be for him? I know he won't see this, but if he were to see you now?

NAVALNAYA: That we're -- we're fighting and we're doing everything we can to get him out and that I miss him. And I want to -- I want to extend the message to everyone else who's watching that fighting for what's right is going to be hard, but it's never wrong. I encourage you to stand up to Putin regime, and -- you know, fight for the better future of the world.

BURNETT: Well, Dasha, thank you so much.

NAVALNAYA: Thank you so much for having me.

BURNETT: Thank you for spending time with me. I am grateful.

NAVALNAYA: Thank you.

BURNETT: And thanks to all of us for joining us.