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"You are not alone": large-scale actions in support of Alexei Navalny took place all over the world on 4 June


Hundreds of people took to the main square in cities around the world on the birthday of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, who is currently serving a sentence in a high-security prison in Russia.

Media Loft correspondent Katya Kobenok spoke to anti-war activists who organised  such actions of solidarity.

Limassol, Cyprus

"A Russian citizen like me"

Protests were held in dozens of cities around the world, from Geneva to Seoul, from Adelaide to Tel Aviv. Many actions simultaneously focused on political prisoners in Russia and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In Spain, rallies in support of Navalny took place in several cities at the same time, including Madrid, Alicante, Valencia and Malaga.

Madrid, Spain

"Alexei has been illegally arrested, he is being subjected to real physical torture in prison.

Our task is to bring about the overthrow of Putin's regime in order, among other things, to free all political prisoners.

Alexei is a media personality, and his detention can still be somehow overseen, but what is happening to other prisoners, we do not know," says Alexei Nesterenko, president of the Association of Free Russians in Spain.

In Dublin, anti-war activists also rallied in solidarity.

"I have a lot of questions for Mr Navalny, I support his position, but I can't say I support his methods. But I understand that this is a living person. He is a citizen of the Russian Federation, just like me. And every day he is subjected to torture. This protest is a way for me to express my sympathy and support," explains Katerina Rodionova from Free Russians Ireland.

Dublin, Ireland

The activist sees the point of anti-war activism as a means to help the opposition:

"Not all Europeans know that you can get a real sentence for an Instagram post in the Russian Federation, and not all know that you can get tortured for one short statement. This is nonsense for them [Europeans]... As long as we have the right to vote, we have no right to remain silent."

It's all very clear

Protests have taken place not only in countries that unequivocally condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but also in some "hesitant" states. In Hungary, whose government regularly vetoes anti-Russian sanction packages, the action was organised on 3 June in front of the "House of Terror" museum.

Budapest, Hungary

"It's symbolic that after we decided to demonstrate  there, the museum director actually spoke in support of the war - or rather, repeated the Russian propaganda narrative about 'SVO' and 'we don't know the whole truth,'" said Polina, a member of the anti-war movement "Budapest for Peace - VOGYUNK!"

But it is, in fact, the exception. The Hungarian authorities do not obstruct anti-war protests in the country in any way, the activist said.

"In Budapest, the mood is rather anti-war; we see that people support us, not only when we stand at rallies with posters, but also at work, colleagues share our position," Polina believes.

Budapest, Hungary

The situation is even more tense in neighbouring Serbia, where some 200,000 Russians have moved since Russia invaded Ukraine. At the request of local authorities, a rally in support of Navalny was moved from the main square because a stage had been built there for a concert by the pro-Russian singer Pelageya. Several protesters came out with placards: "Pelageya, sing about Alexei."

Belgrade, Serbia

Peter Nikitin, an organiser of the protest in support of Navalny in Belgrade, believes it is necessary to remind the international community that not all Russians support the war. Then both Western and Serbian politicians will have a more realistic picture of what kind of people live in Russia and what they want.

"I believe that any action adds another grain of sand to the scale that opposes Putin's dictatorship. It doesn't matter where one demonstrates or how many people there are. Everyone puts their grain of sand on that scale. As Navalny said: "The best support is action and everyone has to perform some kind of action. If these actions are added up, they can outweigh the power of the dictatorship," says Peter.

Belgrade, Serbia

Meanwhile, at least 111 people who came out in support of the opposition leader on June 4 were detained across Russia, according to OVD-Info. More than half of them were detained in Moscow.

"Telling the truth and not giving up"

The protesters' main demand is the immediate release of Alexei, who was detained at  Moscow airport in January 2021. The opposition activist had just returned to Russia from Germany, where he had been treated for Novichok poisoning. On March 22, 2022, the Lefortovo District Court in Moscow sentenced Alexei Navalny to nine years in a strict regime penal colony for large-scale fraud and contempt of court.

In the penal colony, Navalny was repeatedly sent to the punishment cell for having a button  undone or some other violation of the daily code of conduct. He has been deprived of his right to attorney-client privilege, and prison doctors do not provide access to his medical records.

"For more than two years now, Vladimir Putin has kept his main enemy in prison,under torture. But Alexei Navalny keeps doing what he has been doing for years: telling the truth and not giving up," said Navalny's team.

Geneva, Switzerland

By the way, Navalny himself published a post about his birthday in which he thanked his comrades-in-arms for their support.

"But the biggest thank you and the biggest hello I want to give today is to all the political prisoners in Russia, Belarus and other countries. Most of them have it much harder than me. I think about them all the time. Their resilience inspires me every day," the politician wrote.

On 6 June, Navalny will be tried in a new "extremism" case, under which the opposition leader faces up to 30 years in prison.

By: Katya Kobenok

Cover photo: EPA / Vostock-photo


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