Death of Alexei Navalny: MEPs to hear testimonies from the Russian opposition

By Martin Banks

Prominent Russian anti-corruption activists have condemned the death of Alexei Navalny.

One called the current regime in Russia as an “unjust tumour on the body of our country.”

Addressing MEPs via a video link, Leonid Volkov, of the Anti-Corruption Foundation and Navalny’s Chief of staff, told members he was “still speechless” following Navalny’s death in a Russian prison a week ago.

He said, “He was my close friend and my hero.His passing leaves a deep hole in our hearts. But it is vital we continue the fight he led and that is what we will do.”

“The EU and others must put pressure on Vladimir Putin so as to achieve change in Russia.”

Also speaking at the hearing in parliament was Evgenia Kara-Murza, Advocacy Director at the Free Russia Foundation and wife of political prisoner Vladimir Kara-Murza who is serving a long prison sentence in Russia.

Appearing personally before MEPs, she said “We have lost the best, the most principled and strongest fighter we had. He was the man who gave us hope and his death is a devastating blow.”

“He was a fierce warrior for the future of our country but we have to fight on to achieve our goals.”

She told how her own husband had survived two assassination attempts and was serving a 20-year sentence in Russoa.

Foreign affairs committee chair David McAllister, an EPP member from Germany, told the meeting on 22 February that Navalny had been subject to “unjust and arbitrary punishment”.

He said, “For anyone who cares about democracy we have a moral duty to continue the fight he led.”

Navalny was one of Russia’s most well-known anti-corruption activists, an opposition politician and an ardent critic of President Vladimir Putin.

He died under mysterious circumstances in a remote penal colony in the Russian Arctic on Friday 16 February, while serving a long prison sentence on what many say were trumped-up charges.

At the joint committee meeting, MEPs discussed the state of Russia’s democratic opposition movement ahead of the country’s presidential elections scheduled for 15-17 March.

They also examined the latest developments regarding the prison conditions in which  Navalny was kept and his subsequent death, as well as the situation of all those Russian opposition voices currently behind bars.

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