Alexei Navalny’s wife says Kremlin critic’s nine-year prison sentence ‘means nothing at all’ for marriage

‘If we have to constantly resist pressure, then we will master this science,’ Yulia Navalnaya says

Andy Gregory
Thursday 24 March 2022 11:39 GMT
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Yulia Navalnaya leaves a court hearing in Pokrov on 15 February
Yulia Navalnaya leaves a court hearing in Pokrov on 15 February (REUTERS/Denis Kaminev)

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Alexei Navalny’s wife has said that Russia’s decision to imprison the opposition figure for a further nine years “means nothing at all” for their marriage, in a show of solidarity with her husband and defiance against the Kremlin.

Following a trial denounced by Amnesty International as a “sham”, the arch Kremlin critic was convicted this week of fraud and contempt of court – charges Mr Navalny dismissed as false.

Already serving a two-and-a-half year sentence for parole violations in a prison colony east of Moscow, Mr Navalny was handed nine more years in a maximum security prison for supposedly embezzling funds to his Anti-Corruption Foundation – which had embarrassed Mr Putin with its investigations.

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While his associates believe the charges are a politically motivated attempt to keep him behind bars for as long as possible, Mr Navalny – who was poisoned in 2020 – used the trial to condemn Vladimir Putin as a “war criminal” and vowed to keep fighting censorship to “bring the truth to the people of Russia”.

Sharing an image of their family taken during Mr Navalny’s 2018 presidential campaign, his wife Yulia Navalnaya said that the couple would “master the science” of resisting the constant pressures on them.

“We have been together for more than 20 years, and year after year we learn to be good parents and good spouses, but if we have to constantly resist pressure, then we will master this science,” Ms Navalnaya wrote on Instagram.

“The number nine means nothing at all. I love you, my dearest person in the world, and I have not ceased to be proud of you for many, many years.”

Pointing to the poisoning and imprisonment of her husband, Ms Navalnaya said that while many things had changed in recent years, one thing “remains unchanged” and “will remain”.

She referred back to her own comments at a rally during his bid to become Moscow mayor in 2013, interpreted as a dig at Mr Putin, in which she said: “If those in power see families as a weakness, they are mistaken. Family is the strength of any normal person – especially any real politician.”

In the fresh proceedings against him, Mr Navalny was accused of stealing £3.5m of donations received by his now banned political organisations. State prosecutors had asked the court to move him from a jail in Pokrov to a maximum security facility for 13 years.

After the last court hearing in relation to his case, on 15 March, Mr Navalny wrote on Instagram: “If the prison term is the price of my human right to say things that need to be said... then they can ask for 113 years. I will not renounce my words or deeds.”

The US state department denounced his “disturbing” sentencing as “another example of the Russian government’s widening crackdown on dissent and freedom of expression, which is intended to hide the Kremlin’s brutal war” in Ukraine.

Boris Johnson said his thoughts were with Mr Navalny’s family as he “continues to show incredible bravery in standing up to Putin’s regime”.

“I think we’ve seen the sort of trumped-up charges that Putin uses against those who seek to hold him to account, or those that seek to engage in the democratic process, and this is sadly a continuation of that,” the prime minister’s spokesperson said.

Earlier this month, Mr Navalny urged Russians to protest Mr Putin’s war in Ukraine, saying: “Let’s at least not become a nation of frightened silent people. Of cowards who pretend not to notice the aggressive war against Ukraine unleashed by our obviously insane czar.”

As the invasion enters its second month, figures from the independent monitoring group OVD-Info suggest that more than 15,000 people have been arrested in Russia during demonstrations in scores of cities across the country.

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