And the Oscar Goes to “Navalny”

Published: 15 March 2023

Navalny OscarJailed Russia opposition leader Alexei Navalny, communicates online with his friends, showing him the Oscar ceremony. (Photo: Команда Навального/@teamnavalny, Twitter, License)

By Zdravko Ljubas

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been imprisoned for nearly 800 days in one of Russia’s most dreadful prison colonies when a documentary on his poisoning and political activities won the Oscar as an outstanding documentary feature.

The U.S. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced at the ceremony in Los Angeles that the documentary “Navalny”, directed by Daniel Roher, which follows an investigation by the outlet Bellingcat and CNN into the poisoning of Alexei Navalny with the deadly Novichok nerve agent in August 2020, won the Oscar.

As he was accepting the statue, Roher stated that he was dedicating it to “Navalny and to all political prisoners around the world.”

“Alexei, the world has not forgotten your vital message to us all – we must not be afraid to oppose dictators and authoritarianism wherever it rears its head,” said Roher.

Navalny’s colleagues at the so-called Navalny’s Command, ironically commented that at one end of the globe Alexei Navalny is receiving an Oscar while at the other end he is dealing with difficulties in the penitentiary colony with “Putin’s judges.”

Alexei’s wife Yulia, together with their children – daughter Daria and son Zahar – joined director Roher at the stage in Los Angeles, to receive the Academy Award.

“My husband is in prison just for telling the truth. My husband is in prison just for defending democracy,” Yulia Navalnaya declared from the Academy’s stage.

She also sent an emotional message to her husband: “Alexei, I’m dreaming of the day when you will be free, and our country will be free. Stay strong, my love.”

Russian authorities detained Navalny in January 2021 after he returned to Moscow from Berlin, where he was treated in a hospital after the poisoning attack in Russia.

A month later, he was convicted by Moscow’s Simonovsky District Court of violating the terms of his 2014 suspended sentence in the so-called Yves Rocher case.

Navalny was sentenced to home detention, while his brother Oleg was sentenced to jail, for allegedly exploiting the French cosmetic company’s Russian operations. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2017 that Alexei and Oleg Navalny’s sentences were “arbitrary and unfair.”

However, when he was lying in a coma in a Berlin hospital after the poisoning attack, he failed to report to authorities in Russia, as prescribed by the judge.

This is why Navalny was sentenced and taken to the Pokrov IK-2 penitentiary center, where he spent more than 500 days before being moved to Melekhovo IK-6 prison – considered as one of the harshest in the country.

The transfer to Melekhovo came after another trial in which Navalny was found guilty of misusing donations from his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) and Navalny’s Headquarters for personal gain by the Moscow’s Lefortovo District Court, which is thought to be in charge of dealing with cases provided by the Federal Security Service (FSB).

With other accusations – insulting the trial participants during the proceedings for allegedly slandering a Russian veteran by using offensive terminology – Navalny was sentenced to nine years in Melekhovo.

Just two days before the ceremony in Los Angeles, the European Union’s human rights’ guardian – Council of Europe, called again on the regime in Moscow to immediately release Navalny.

“The Committee of Ministers deplored the fact that, despite its repeated calls, Aleksei Navalny has still not been released and is being detained mainly in solitary confinement without direct and unsupervised access to his lawyers,” the Council said in its Decision and Interim Resolution.

Marija Pejčinović Burić, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, has also written to Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov to present to him the Council’s most recent decisions and to reiterate her demand that Moscow comply with all 2,404 European Court judgments.