Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been awarded the Sakharov Prize of Freedom of Thought 2021.
In a ceremony in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday, Daria Navalnaya, the incarcerated dissident’s daughter, accepted the prize on his behalf.
European Parliament President David Sassoli said: “The European Parliament has chosen Alexei Navalny as the winner of this year’s Sakharov Prize. He has campaigned consistently against the corruption of Vladimir Putin’s regime, and through his social media accounts and political campaigns, Navalny has helped expose abuses and mobilise the support of millions of people across Russia”.
“I can’t understand why those who advocate for pragmatic relations with dictators can’t simply open the history books. Pacification of dictators and tyrants never works” Daria Navalnaya
"For this, he was poisoned and thrown in jail,” Sassoli explained, adding: “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.”
Sassoli called for Navalny’s immediate and unconditional release. The Parliament’s President, a former journalist, said that despite the prize winner still in prison, and previously incarcerated, tortured, poisoned, as well as facing mounting charges, the Russian authorities had been unable to stop Navalny from fighting tirelessly.
In her acceptance speech Navalnaya, referring to the conditions her father is currently kept in, said: “I am incredibly grateful and at the same time absolutely terrified. Why is it so hard to free from captivity those who fight for human rights, in European countries in the 21st century?”
She left a clear message for EU policymakers: “I can’t understand why those who advocate for pragmatic relations with dictators can’t simply open the history books. Pacification of dictators and tyrants never works”.
Instead she asked EU leaders to target the Russian political elite, and for European citizens to keep speaking up about human rights violations in Russia, as a way to ensure the work of her father and his colleagues is not forgotten.
“When I wrote to my dad and asked: ‘What exactly do you want me to say in the speech from your point of view?’ he answered: Say that no one can dare to equate Russia to Putin’s regime. Russia is a part of Europe, and we strive to become a part of it. But we also want Europe to strive for itself, to those amazing ideas, which are at its core. We strive for a Europe of ideas, the celebration of human rights, democracy and integrity.”
Russia is a part of Europe, and we strive to become a part of it. But we also want Europe to strive for itself, to those amazing ideas, which are at its core. We strive for a Europe of ideas, the celebration of human rights, democracy and integrity” Alexei Navalny
Andrei Sakharov, the Prize’s namesake, was renowned for his work advocating for civil liberties and reforms in Russia in the late 20th century.
Now, the Russian authorities are threatening to close down one of Sakharov’s greatest achievements, ‘Memorial’ - the historical and civil rights movement, created by Sakharov and others in the late 1980s – which is now under threat for alleged violations of the country’s ‘Foreign Agents’ Law.
On this issue, Swedish Social Democratic MEP Evin Incir, a negotiator of the resolution on Memorial, said: “The European Parliament will vote for a strong resolution [today] in which we will condemn the attempts to close Memorial and will call on the Russian authorities to repeal the ‘Foreign Agents’ Law - used to intimidate and silence critical voices and stamp out Russia’s active civil society.”