Alexei Navalny, the face of Russian opposition who has been poisoned and thrown into prison for his anti-corruption work, has been awarded the European Parliament’s prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
“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,” Parliament President David Sassoli said.
Navalny, who has been a figure in Russian politics since the early 2010s, was unable to receive the award as he is currently in prison for violating parole from a 2014 embezzlement case which he said was politically motivated.
He is known as a major political opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He came to international prominence for organising demonstrations against Putin and his government, running for office and advocating for anti-corruption reforms.
In August 2020, a few months prior to his imprisonment, he was a victim of acute poisoning while on a plane heading from Siberia to Moscow. He recovered in Germany but voluntarily returned to Russia knowing full well he would be arrested.
He is currently serving a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence, with more than two years still remaining.
“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,” Parliament Vice-President Heidi Hautala said.
The prize, named after a Soviet dissident, is awarded by the European Parliament every year. Since 1988, the €50,000 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.
This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
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