A year after his arrest, Navalny says ‘no regrets’ about returning to Russia

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny is serving a 30-month jail term and faces another charge of ‘extremism’

Rory Sullivan
Monday 17 January 2022 17:24
Comments
<p>Alexei Navalny in prison</p>

Alexei Navalny in prison

Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has said he does not “regret” returning to the country, a year after he was arrested at a Moscow airport.

The staunch Kremlin critic, who has spent the last 12 months in prison, was detained at Sheremetyevo Airport on 17 January, 2021, shortly after his flight arrived from Berlin.

Russia’s leading anti-government figure had received medical treatment in the German capital, following a suspected Kremlin-ordered poisoning in Siberia.

After making a full recovery, Mr Navalny decided to head home, despite knowing he would likely be imprisoned.

“I don’t regret it for a second,” he wrote on Instagram on Monday, exactly a year since his arrest.

Although he had not been able to take “a single step in my country as a free person”, Mr Navalny expressed his pride in standing up to the regime, in what he described as a “tug of war” between the “bravery and fear” of the Russian people.

“I tried as hard as I could to pull my end of the rope, pulling over to my side those who are honest and no longer afraid,” the 45-year-old said, calling on the rest of the Russian populace to set aside their fear and to challenge the status quo.

The European Union called on Moscow on Monday to immediately release Mr Navalny and condemned what it called a consistent disinformation campaign against the jailed critic and his associates in Russian state media.

After Mr Navalny’s arrest last year, protests flared up in towns and cities throughout Russia, leading to a tough response from the authorities.

As part of this ongoing crackdown on civil liberties, two allies of Mr Navalny - Leonid Volkov, 41, and Ivan Zhdanov, 33 - were recently added to a government watchlist usually reserved for terrorists. Both men had already fled the country, along with many other leading anti-government figures.

Speaking about the Kremlin’s move, Mr Zhdanov, who ran Mr Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, which was outlawed by the Kremlin last summer, said it “will not affect me and my life in any way”.

He tweeted that Moscow’s targeting of individuals would become more widespread, calling himself and Mr Volkov “pioneers for this kind of nonsense”.

Mr Navalny is currently serving a two-and-a half-year sentence for breaking a parole agreement linked to the trumped-up corruption charges brought against him in 2014. He was in hospital in Germany at the time of the alleged breach.

It appears that president Vladimir Putin, who has been in power as either president or prime minister since 1999, is keen to keep his opponent in detention for longer.

In September, Russia’s Investigative Committee, which looks into major crimes, named Mr Navalny as being suspected of founding and leading an extremist group. Such a crime carries a punishment of up to a decade in jail.

Referring to an upcoming trial, Mr Navalny said: “There’s another one next where I’m an extremist and a terrorist. I don’t know at all when my…journey will end or whether it will end at all.”

Moscow’s stifling of free speech ramped up in late December, when the Russian supreme court announced the closure of Memorial, the country’s best-known human rights organisation. The ruling was condemned by the UN and Western governments.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in