Russia’s leading opposition politician and anti-corruption campaigner Aleksei Navalny marked two years in prison last month, posting a statement on social media that urges followers to oppose “corrupt judges, false propagandists, and Kremlin thieves.”
Navalny was arrested and jailed two years ago when he returned from Germany after being treated for near-fatal poisoning.
He has called Russian President Vladimir Putin “the Tsar of corruption” and labeled the ruling United Russia party “the party of crooks and thieves.”
Navalny, 46, trained as a lawyer. He was arrested multiple times for leading anti-government mass protests in Moscow and other cities.
The Kremlin designated his Foundation for Fighting Corruption and its 40 regional offices an “extremist” organization and banned it. But his YouTube channel has more than six million subscribers and regularly posts videos exposing alleged corruption among Russian leaders.
In March last year, he was sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of contempt and embezzlement. In 2017, another Russian court convicted him of embezzlement and barred him from running for office.
Navalny’s two-year anniversary statement posted on Instagram on January 17 said,
Exactly two years ago I returned to Russia. And I spent exactly two years in prison. And when you write such a post, whether you like it or not, you ask yourself the question: how many more of these anniversary posts are to be written?
But life and what is happening around themselves suggest the answer: yes, no matter how much it takes. Our unfortunate, tormented Motherland needs to be saved. She was robbed, wounded, drawn into an aggressive war and turned into a prison run by the most unscrupulous and deceitful villains. Any opposition to this gang – however symbolic in my current limited capacity – is important.
Like two years ago, I say: Russia is my country. I was born and raised here, my parents are here, and here I started a family – I found a loved one, I had children. I am a full-fledged citizen and have the right to unite with those who think the same way as I do and to conduct political activities. And there are many of us, certainly more than corrupt judges, false propagandists, and Kremlin thieves.
I am not going to give them my country and I believe that the darkness will disappear. But as long as it lasts, I will do what I can, try to do the right thing and urge everyone not to be discouraged.
Russia will be happy!
The day before Navalny’s statement appeared, a group of Russian lawyers wrote an open letter to Vladimir Putin that accused authorities of torturing Navalny. The letter said he’s a political prisoner and has been in solitary confinement ten times under conditions that “pose a threat to life.”
Navalny ran for mayor of Moscow in 2013. He lost to a Putin crony, incumbent Sergei Sobyanin, but surprised the Kremlin by winning nearly 30 percent of the vote.
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