BERLIN (AP) — On the second anniversary of the poisoning attack on Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, Germany and the United States hailed the determination of the Kremlin critic who is still imprisoned in Russia on charges those nations consider politically motivated.
“He barely survived the assassination attempt. He was able to recover in Germany,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a video message released Saturday, praising the Russian dissident’s bravery for going back to his homeland.
“I spoke with him during this time and got to know a courageous man who returned to Russia because he wanted to fight for democracy, freedom and the rule of law,” the chancellor added. “We should think about that now.”
The U.S. State Department called for the immediate release of Navalny and condemned the Russian government’s crackdown on opposition figures and independent media. Navalny is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most well-known critic and has detailed huge incidents of corruption by his regime.
“It is no coincidence that the Kremlin’s aggression in Ukraine has been accompanied by intensified repression at home,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
“The Kremlin seeks to prevent the people of Russia from knowing about the atrocities its forces are inflicting on Ukrainian civilians, and also from learning about the needless Russian military casualties for the sake of this unjust war,” he added, referring to Russia’s six-month brutal war in Ukraine.
Navalny himself tweeted Saturday that “this is the second time I celebrate my second birthday. The day they tried to kill me, but for some reason I didn’t die.”
He also wrote that his case “has exposed both Putin himself and his system to such an extent that it has shown not only the criminality, but also the dysfunctionality and failure of his regime.”
Navalny was arrested in Russia in January 2021 upon returning from Germany, where he had been recuperating from nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. He was handed a 2½-year sentence for a parole violation.
In March, Navalny was sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of fraud and contempt of court, which he rejected as politically motivated and an attempt by the authorities to keep him behind bars for as long as possible.
Earlier this week, Navalny says prison officials ordered him to serve at least three days in solitary confinement, citing a minor infraction, in retaliation for his activism behind bars.