Hopeful Message and Arrests Mark Navalny's Birthday

Someday, imprisoned opposition leader says, telling the truth openly in Russia will be routine
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 4, 2023 3:15 PM CDT
Backers Mark Navalny's 47th With Demonstrations, Arrests
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny looks at photographers standing behind a glass of the cage in the Babuskinsky District Court in Moscow in February 2021.   (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

Alexei Navalny voiced hope for a better future in Russia as his supporters defied a crackdown on dissent to hold pickets and demonstrations to mark the imprisoned opposition leader's 47th birthday on Sunday, with at least 90 people reported arrested. Navalny 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 organize anti-Kremlin protests. He is facing a new trial on extremism charges that could keep him in prison for decades, the AP reports. Kremlin critics view the case as another Russian government attempt to isolate President Vladimir Putin's most prominent foe.

Navalny’s associates called for demonstrations in Russia and abroad on Sunday, and protests were held in several European cities. Risking their own prison terms, some Navalny supporters in Russia marked his birthday by holding individual pickets, while others painted graffiti. At least 90 people were detained, according to the OVD-Info group that monitors political arrests. Police beefed up their presence in downtown Moscow and moved quickly to round up those who tried to stage individual pickets on Pushkin Square and elsewhere in the capital. One man managed to throw around leaflets before being whisked away. A woman holding a small black balloon with the words "Happy Birthday!" who was clad in a hoody with "You aren't alone" written on it was detained. She asked officers why, but they didn't answer.

Navalny said in a social media post his allies released that he would obviously prefer to spend his birthday with a family breakfast, kisses from his children, and gifts but that "life is such 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." Navalny, who was arrested in January 2021, added: "The more there are such people, the smaller the price each has to pay. 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."

(Read more Alexei Navalny stories.)

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