Awarded for his "courage in the struggle for freedom, democracy and human rights." Collaborator of the imprisoned dissident: "This was really the year of Aleksej". Kremlin on the attack: "A political award, which confirms how Naval'nyj is a pawn in a global anti-Russia plan".
Moscow (AsiaNews) - The European Parliament has awarded the Russian opponent Aleksej Naval'nyj the Andrei Sakharov prize "for freedom of thought", at the proposal of the European People's Party. It is the highest recognition of the EU in the field of human rights. The liberals, have also voted in favor of the impriosned Russian blogger "for [his] courage in the fight for freedom, democracy and human rights".
An associate of Naval'nyj, Ivan Ždanov, told Radio Svoboda that the award - given on October 20 - was not expected, given the competition from Afghan women and the former president of Bolivia. "It was a pleasant surprise, a bit like playing the lottery, because you don't know how these processes work... I think they take into account the most important events of the past year, as was the case with the Belarusian opposition last year or the award to Oleg Sentsov three years ago, and this was really Aleksej's year."
Ždanov does not believe that the authorities will release Naval'nyj after this recognition, "But it certainly helps him, because Putin and all Russian men of power have tried to delegitimize him in every way, saying that he is just an insignificant blogger, locked up for economic infractions."
Political scientist Leonid Gozman told Currentime.tv that "even if they won't release him as long as Putin is there, at least he will have a few more chances of not beeing killed in the lager, if only not to attract too much attention." Other awardees, such as Uyghur dissident Ilham Tohti in 2019, are also still locked up in prison; Sentsov, on the other hand, was released from prison soon after receiving the award.
The European recognition gives Naval'nyj a world-class profile. The Kremlin reaction was delievered in statements issued by spokesman Dmitry Peskov and some Duma deputies: "A political award, which confirms how Naval'nyj is a pawn in a global anti-Russia plan", while suggesting a withdrawal from all European fora in which Russians still participate.
The human rights activist Zoja Svetova argues instead that "it is a compensation for the missed Nobel Peace Prize, a prestigious prize that in the past went to Nelson Mandela, to the Soviet dissident Anatolij Marčenko after his death following a hunger strike, and also to other great Russian dissidents such as Sergej Kovalev and Ljudmila Alekseeva". As remarked by another opponent, the journalist Lev Ponomarev, "Naval'nyj's thesis is confirmed, according to which dealing with politics in Russia means first of all fighting for people's rights, and that today we are returning to the practices of the Soviet era".
The French lawyer of Naval'nyj in the dispute with Yves Rocher (for which he has been imprisoned), Amelie Lefevre, congratulating her client for the award also reveals "there are currently good chances to win the case on appeal with the company, for absence of malice". Yves Rocher would have denounced Oleg and Aleksej Naval'nyj with false accusations, and if their innocence would be recognized this could change the destiny of the prisoner also in Russia (his brother Oleg has already served three and a half years of imprisonment).
Naval'nyj has not yet been able to make known his thoughts on the decision of the EU Parliament, also because his new prison status of "extremist" has further restricted visits of relatives and lawyers.