January 29, 2021

Helsinki Commission Leaders Condemn Jailing of Navalny, Attacks on Peaceful Protesters Across Russia

WASHINGTON – Following Alexei Navalny’s recent arrest, violent attacks on peaceful protesters across Russia, and police raids on the offices and homes of Navalny and his colleagues, Helsinki Commission leaders Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Representatives Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20) and Joe Wilson (SC-02) issued the following statements:

“Mr. Navalny must be allowed to return to his family and his work without further harassment by the Kremlin,” said Sen. Cardin. “The Russian people have the right to protest peacefully and advocate for the future of their country without fear of violent retribution from Putin.”

“What has happened to Alexei Navalny is a travesty. After being poisoned at the Kremlin’s orders, he returned home to Russia only to be jailed for the ‘crime’ of pulling back the curtain on the corruption and violence entrenched in Putin’s system,” said Sen. Wicker. “Those who expose the truth should be rewarded, not condemned.”

“Protesters who support Mr. Navalny’s release and seek a more just Russia should not be beaten in the streets and treated like criminals,” said Rep. Hastings. “The true criminals are those who continue to enable Putin and his cronies to steal from the people of Russia.”

“If Vladimir Putin did not fear Navalny and his anti-corruption movement, he would not go to such great lengths to silence them,” said Rep. Wilson. “He understands that his power is threatened when the truth is exposed.”

In August 2020, Navalny was the victim of a coordinated assassination attempt by the Russian FSB that used a chemical weapon in the Novichok family. After holding him for two days in Russia, Russian authorities allowed Navalny to travel to Berlin, where he spent months recovering, for treatment.

Navalny returned to Moscow on January 17 and immediately was arrested. Shortly thereafter, in a makeshift trial in a Moscow police station, Navalny was sentenced to 30 days of pre-trial detention. He will receive his final sentence on February 2.

Following Navalny’s detention and his release of an exposé documenting Vladimir Putin’s palace on the Black Sea, thousands of Russians in over 100 cities and towns took to the streets on January 23 to protest. Police responded with widespread violence and over 3,700 people, including more than 50 journalists, were detained.

Additional protests are planned for January 31.