Supporters of jailed Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny held protests in Russia and several European cities to mark his third birthday in prison.
Supporters of jailed Russian opposition figure, Alexeï Navalny, held protests in Moscow, Germany, and elsewhere in the world on Sunday to show their support as the 47-year-old spent his third birthday in prison.
In Russia, demonstrators marked the day in several cities by holding individual protests, while others sprayed graffiti. Police quickly detained many for questioning.
Meanwhile in Germany, supporters gathered at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to call for Navalny’s release.
“We do these rallies all over the world to draw as much attention as possible to his case” explained Kira Yarmysh, Navalny’s spokesperson, “It is very important for people to still continue to watch him, because this is what actually keeps him safe.”
The opposition leader is serving a nine-year sentence for fraud and contempt of court, charges he says were trumped up to punish him for his work to expose official corruption and organising anti-Kremlin protests.
And he is due to go on trial shortly in a new “extremism” case in which he faces a further 35 years in prison.
The new charges come as Russian authorities conduct an intensified crackdown on dissent amid the fighting in Ukraine, which Navalny has harshly criticised.
Yarmysh said she has to stay optimistic and is sure that Russian President Vladimir Putin will be defeated: “I do believe that this will end sooner or later, because the historical truth is on our side and, well, Putin is old and his regime is obsolete and he just can’t survive, with all this new life and brand new things that are appearing.”
In a social media post released by his allies, Navalny voiced hope for a better future in Russia. He said he would prefer spending his birthday with his family, but that “social progress and a better future can only be achieved if a certain number of people are willing to pay for the right to have beliefs.”
“The more there are such people, the smaller the price each has to pay,” he said. “And a day will certainly come when it will be routine and not dangerous at all to tell the truth and stand for justice in Russia,” he said.
Navalny was arrested in January 2021 on his return to Moscow after recuperating in Germany from nerve-agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin.