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Navalny dedicates human rights award to political prisoners

June 8, 2021

Navalny's daughter accepted the award on his behalf. The opposition leader has been held in a penal colony near Moscow since February.

Alexei Navalny portrait
A man holds a picture of Alexei Navalny during a demonstration in solidarity with political prisoners in PortugalImage: Patricia De Melo Moreira/AFP/Getty Images

Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny received a prestigious human rights award on Tuesday, with the Kremlin critic dedicating the prize to political prisoners in Russia and Belarus.

The Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, an annual conference sponsored by 25 human rights NGOs around the world, gave the Moral Courage Award to Navalny. 

"My dad asked me today to give this award to every single political prisoner in Russia and Belarus," Navalny's daughter,  Daria Navalnya, said in a virtual speech accepting the award on his behalf. 

"He wrote that most of them are in a much worse situation compared to me, because they're not well known or famous," Navalnya said, citing a letter she received from her father. "They should know that they are not alone or forgotten about."

Navalnya, who is 20-years-old, gave her speech from the United States. She described herself "as a proud daughter and as a Russian citizen, concerned about the fast downfall of democracy in my country." 

Russia's Navalny appears in public - Aaron Tilton reports

Why is Navalny in prison?

Navalny has been imprisoned in a penal colony near Moscow since February. The Kremlin critic was sentenced to over three years in prison by a Moscow court that same month for violating the terms of his probation linked to a 2014 ruling. 

Since Navalny already served a year in house arrest in 2014, he will only be required to spend two years and eight months in prison. Doctors have expressed concerns about his health while in prison, with Navalny also temporarily going on hunger strike at one point to demand better medical care. 

Navalny, the founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation watchdog, has claimed the ruling and court proceedings were politically motivated. Navalny is the most prominent opposition figure and domestic critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Navalny was arrested by authorities in January at an airport in Moscow upon his arrival from Germany. He was receiving treatment from a hospital in Berlin after he was poisoned by nerve agent Novichok in August.

Navalny claims the poisoning was orchestrated by the Russian FSB security service. The Kremlin denies the allegations. 

Navalny's arrest and prison sentence have provoked solidarity demonstrations across Russia, and condemnation from the US and EU.

wd/aw (AFP, Reuters)