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EU – RUSSIA: Alexei Navalny awarded the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize

Alexei Navalny awarded the European Parliament’s 2021 Sakharov Prize


MEPs have awarded Russian opposition politician and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny the European Parliament’s 2021 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

 

European Parliament (20.10.2021) – https://bit.ly/3m2BiQO – Parliament Vice-President Heidi Hautala announced the 2021 laureate in the Strasbourg plenary chamber on Wednesday afternoon, following an earlier decision by the Conference of Presidents (President and political group leaders).

 

Parliament President David Sassoli said: “The European Parliament has chosen Alexei Navalny as the winner of this year’s Sakharov Prize. He has campaigned consistently against the corruption of Vladimir Putin’s regime, and through his social media accounts and political campaigns, Navalny has helped expose abuses and mobilise the support of millions of people across Russia. For this, he was poisoned and thrown in jail.”

 

“In awarding the Sakharov Prize to Alexei Navalny, we recognise his immense personal bravery and reiterate the European Parliament’s unwavering support for his immediate release”, he added.

 

Vice-President Hautala said: “This year, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought has been awarded to an advocate for change. Alexei Navalny has shown great courage in his attempts to restore the freedom of choice to the Russian people. For many years, he has fought for human rights and fundamental freedoms in his country. This has cost him his freedom and nearly his life. On behalf of the European Parliament, I call for his immediate and unconditional release.”

 

“Today, the Parliament also honours a group of Afghan women, who have fought fiercely for equality and human rights in their country and who were shortlisted for the Sakharov Prize. We chose to honour the bravery of these women, as they are among the first to suffer violations of their most basic rights and freedoms after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan”, she added.

 

Fighting corruption in Russia

 

Alexei Navalny is a Russian opposition politician, anti-corruption activist and major political opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He came to international prominence for organising demonstrations against President Putin and his government, running for office and advocating for anti-corruption reforms. In August 2020, Navalny was poisoned and spent months recovering in Berlin. He was arrested on his return to Moscow in January 2021. He is currently serving a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence, with more than two years still remaining. Now incarcerated in a high-security penal colony, Navalny went on a long hunger strike in late March 2021 to protest his lack of access to medical care. In June 2021, a Russian court banned Alexei Navalny’s regional offices and his Anti-Corruption Foundation, both now classified as extremist and undesirable by the Russian authorities.

 

The Sakharov award ceremony will be held on 15 December in Strasbourg. Read more about the other Sakharov Prize finalists in 2021 here.

 

Background

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is awarded each year by the European Parliament. It was set up in 1988 to honour individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is named in honour of Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov and the prize money is 50 000 euros.

Last year, Parliament awarded the prize to the democratic opposition of Belarus, represented by the Coordination Council, an initiative of brave women and political and civil society figures.

Photo credits: European Parliament

 

HRWF Comment
On the same day, HRWF held a press conference about “Defending Freedom of Opinion and Freedom of Speech in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine” at the Press Club in Brussels. Texts of the speakers available on request.




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EU – RUSSIA: Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny wins 2021 Sakharov Prize

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny wins 2021 Sakharov Prize

The jailed Russian opposition leader has been awarded the European Parliament’s rights prize for his efforts to challenge President Vladimir Putin’s grip on power.

 

Die Welt (20.10.2021) – https://bit.ly/3BXKwDv – The European Parliament on Wednesday announced it awarded the European Union’s top human rights prize to the imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny

 

“He has fought tirelessly against the corruption of Vladimir Putin’s regime. This cost him his liberty and nearly his life. Today’s prize recognises his immense bravery and we reiterate our call for his immediate release,” European Parliament President David Sassoli said on Twitter.

 

Kremlin critic unlikely to take part in awards ceremony

 

Navalny is unlikely to be able to travel to receive the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought on December 15 at the award ceremony in Strasbourg.

 

The prize, named after a Soviet dissident, is awarded by the European Parliament every year. Since 1988, the €50,000 ($58,156) prize has been awarded to individuals and rights organizations for their work toward promoting and defending human rights and freedoms.

 

Also among the nominees for this year’s award were UK-based environmental and rights group Global Witness, jailed former Bolivian President Jeanine Anez, Sahrawi activist Sultana Khaya and 11 Afghan women.

 

‘Mr. Putin, free Alexei Navalny’

 

The parliament’s EPP Christian Democrat group announced Wednesday’s decision in a tweet. “Mr. Putin, free Alexei Navalny. Europe calls for his — and all other political prisoners’ — freedom,” it said.

 

“Navalny is the only person on this planet, who deserves the Sakharov prize. He has been fighting for the freedom of speech, liberty, democracy, transparency and against corruption for decades and he has paid a big price himself. He was put in jail, fined, his organization was demolished. He was poisoned,” said Peter van Dalen, a European lawmaker and member of the EPP, in a DW interview.

 

“This is the strongest signal that we from Europe can give to support Navalny. We give hope to the Russian opposition. We say: ‘We hear you. We do not forget you.’ And this message of hope we send now to Navalny and to the Russian opposition,” he added.

 

In January, Navalny was detained after flying back to Russia from Germany. The 45-year-old dissident was sentenced to 2.5 years in a penal colony for violating parole from a previous conviction he says is politically motivated.

 

Ahead of his return to Moscow, Navalny was in Germany for five months for medical treatment after being poisoned in Siberia in August 2020 with a military nerve agent. Russia has denied its involvement and has accused the West of a smear campaign against it.

 

A Moscow court in June labeled Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption and its network of regional offices extremist groups, a ruling that exposed Navalny’s allies to prosecution. 

 

Last month, Russia’s Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes in Russia, launched another probe targeting Navalny. The committee said that by 2014 Navalny had “created an extremist network and directed it” with the aim of “changing the foundations of the constitutional system in the Russian Federation.”

 

Still, Navalny’s allies have continued to criticize the Kremlin. During last month’s Russian election, they launched a tactical voting app in a bid to challenge the country’s ruling party.

 

A flashpoint in EU-Russian tensions

 

Navalny’s recognition with the human rights prize will likely heighten tensions between the 27-nation bloc and Russia.

 

The EU has been calling for Navalny’s release since he was first arrested, and it views his imprisonment as politically motivated. 

 

Last year, the bloc imposed sanctions on six Russian officials for their alleged involvement in the poison attack on Navalny.

 

The European Parliament had awarded the 2020 Sakharov Prize to the Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya — also amid tensions with Minsk and sanctions against top Belarusian officials.  

 

Renata Alt, a member of the Bundestag with the Free Democrats (FDP) told DW that the announcement was an “important sign that he will not be forgotten behind bars.” She then criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who she said had never taken enough action against Putin’s government.

 

Photo credits: AP/Reuters

 

HRWF Comment
On the same day, HRWF held a press conference about “Defending Freedom of Opinion and Freedom of Speech in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine” at the Press Club in Brussels. Texts of the speakers available on request.

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