Jailed Russian Opposition leader wins top EU human rights prize

European Parliament praises Navalny’s ‘immense bravery’

Imprisoned Russian Opposition leader Alexei Navalny was awarded the European Union’s top human rights prize on Wednesday in a clear slap to President Vladimir Putin.

In awarding the Sakharov Prize to Mr. Navalny, the European Parliament praised his “immense personal bravery.” The 45-year-old activist was poisoned with a nerve agent last year and promptly arrested upon his return to Moscow from treatment in Germany and later imprisoned.

Also Read: Navalny marks year after poisoning with anti-corruption call

“He has campaigned consistently against the corruption of Vladimir Putin’s regime, and through his social media accounts and political campaigns, Navalny has helped expose abuses and mobilise the support of millions of people across Russia. For this, he was poisoned and thrown in jail,” Parliament President David Sassoli in a statement.

He called for Mr. Navalny’s immediate release.

Also Read: Navalny app removed from online stores as Russian polls open

The recognition of Mr. Navalny will further sour relations between the 27-nation bloc and Russia. These ties have been on the decline for years, especially following Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and its support for a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

The impact reverberated beyond the EU as well.

Days after Russia suspended its mission at NATO and ordered the closure of the alliance’s office in Moscow in retaliation for NATO’s expulsion of Russian diplomats, the organisation’s chief said he embraced the news. “I welcome the fact that a strong voice … in Russia has been awarded this prize,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters. He said the prize was a call for “his unconditional release from prison” and to have an “international investigation” into it.

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