When prison authorities announced the death of Alexei Navalny, Vladimir Putin’s most powerful political opponent, the Russian president did not hide his satisfaction, writes the Washington Post.

Addressing a group of workers and students at a machinery factory in the Russian industrial city of Chelyabinsk on Friday, a smiling Putin predictably made no mention of Navalny’s death in a remote Arctic prison and instead said he was satisfied with the technological progress he had just witnessed.

Forward! Success! To new frontiers!’. Putin told a young worker who had expressed her admiration for the president.

With Navalny dead at age 47, further military aid to Ukraine still blocked in Congress and Ukrainian forces retreating on the battlefield, much appears to be going Putin’s way a month before Russia’s presidential election that he is sure to win.

Before the trip to Chelyabinsk, Putin had given an interview last week to former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson. Even sanctions imposed by our “quasi-partners,” Putin boasted, resulted in an increase in orders for the factory he was visiting.

Putin is now ‘beyond any competition’said Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior researcher at the Moscow-based Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center.

Navalny’s death not only removes a major political thorn, but is yet another development that serves as a warning to Putin’s potential critics.

Last summer, the crash of the plane carrying Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner mercenary commander who led the insurgency against Russia’s military leadership, sent a chilling message to any opponents of the Kremlin, the Washington Post reports in its analysis.

This month, Russian election authorities barred a liberal anti-war in Ukraine candidate, Boris Nadezhdin, from the presidential ballot, citing irregularities with the signatures required for the nomination. Nadezhdin had virtually no chance of winning, but the Kremlin would not tolerate the slightest show of dissent.

“Putin now remains alone,” Kolesnikov said. “He is Solus Rex, the lonely king. No one can prevent him from triumphing.”

Tatyana Stanovaya, founder of R.Politik, a Russian political consultancy now based in France, said it seemed clear that Putin would suppress any remaining voices of Russian opposition for fear that the West could take advantage of his death. Navalny to cause more turmoil.

“In Putin’s eyes, the danger of Western intervention remains very serious,” he said.

But for Russia’s beleaguered opposition, there is little left for Putin to do to completely crush the movement.

In January, Navalny had called for a nationwide protest on the day of the presidential election in March and for voters to go to the polls at noon and show their dissent against Putin.

But analysts and opposition politicians said it was unclear how many would respond to the call amid fears of Putin’s increasingly repressive tactics. However, they said, Navalny’s death may be a sign that the Kremlin did not want to leave anything to chance.

Authorities in Moscow “are very sensitive now to any details,” Kolesnikov added.

The silent mourning for Navalny in Moscow, with few willing to challenge the authorities by leaving flowers, was a sign of Russia’s transformation since the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Thousands had taken to the streets of Moscow to protest Navalny’s arrest upon his return to Russia in January 2021, recalling scenes some observers likened to the August 2020 protests in Minsk that threatened to topple the Belarusian president.

But protesters in Moscow today will face “a huge mass of armed people,” said Gennady Gudkov, a senior Russian opposition politician now in exile in Paris.

“Street protests can only work if millions come out,” Gudkoff said. “But because people are not organized and have no resources, newspapers, political leaders or parties or unions, there is nothing.”

Others said the death in prison of such a prominent and admired political figure could create a host of problems for Putin.

Navalny’s “unparalleled recognition, importance to the elites and his involvement in domestic politics have ranked him higher than any other opposition figure,” Stanovaya posted in X. “This creates a major political problem for the regime – they will have to face Navalny’s legacy,” he said.

There are also fears that he will lose the support he enjoyed among members of the US Republican party.

Already on Friday, Republicans criticized members of the party who had recently sided with Putin, while President Biden lashed out at Republicans for blocking passage of a bill that included billions in aid to Ukraine.

“Putin does not need such a development now,” said a Moscow official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It’s going to be very difficult now for the Republican Party to oppose.”

Opposition politicians have called on the West to step up its response to the Putin regime. “People need to understand that Putin is not human. It’s a threat to civilization,” Gudkov said. “Without the collapse of the Putin regime, the world will not be able to live in peace.”