‘Stay strong my love’: Wife of the Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny accepts an Oscar for the documentary about his assassination attempt – as he remains jailed by Putin
The wife of a Russian opposition leader jailed for speaking out against Vladimir Putin delivered an emotional message on the Oscars stage Sunday after a documentary about her husband’s life took home an Academy Award. Taking the stage to accept the statue along with the film’s director, Yulia Navalnaya – the wife of currently incarcerated Alexey Navalny – decried Moscow not only for its military invasion of Ukraine, but for its alleged assassination attempt of Navalny in 2020, around which the film is centered. Eponymously titled NAVALNY, the documentary details Putin’s alleged attempt on Navalny’s life, and the United Russia opponent’s subsequent attempt to track down his assailants as he recovered from being poisoned at a hospital Germany.
Upon being discharged, Navalny accused Putin of being responsible for his poisoning, with an investigation later implicating agents from the Federal Security Service as responsible for the incident. Airing these allegations to his more than 6 million followers, Navalny returned to Russia at the start of 2021, only to be immediately jailed by the Kremlin. Officials would later say the 46-year-old political theorist’s incarceration stemmed from his hospital stay having violated his parole for a 2014 embezzlement arrest. At the time, many criticized the arrest as erroneous, and the culmination of politically motivated campaign intended to bar him from running against Putin in future elections. Now, more than two years after his arrest, the opposition leader remains imprisoned – a fact that both the minds behind NAVALNY and Navalny’s wife sought to not be lost in shuffle amid the bells and whistles of the 95th Academy Awards ceremony.
Taking the stage moments after NAVALNY picked up the award for Best Documentary, Navalnaya said she’s ‘dreaming of the day’ that both Russia – and her husband – ‘will be free.’ ‘My husband is in prison just for telling the truth,’ Navalnaya said Sunday, joining director Daniel Roher and several other film staffers in accepting the award. The 46-year-old so-called First Lady’ of the Russian opposition proceeded to use the glitzy venue as a platform to shine a light on her husband’s current situation. ‘My husband is in prison just for defending democracy,’ she said, before addressing her husband directly. ‘Alexey, I am dreaming the day when you will be free and our country will be free. Stay strong, my love. Thank you.’
Navalnaya’s short remarks were accompanied by a similar message form the film’s director, whose work details the overwhelming evidence that suggests the 2020 assassination attempt on Navalny stemmed from his opposition to the Kremlin. Hailing Navalny as both a hero and ‘the leader of the Russian opposition,’ Roher – a documentary filmmaker coming out of Canada – pointed to the subject of his film’s apparent absence upon accepting the statue.
‘There’s one person who couldn’t be with us here tonight,’ Roher said as he accepted the Oscar at the ceremony in Los Angeles. ‘Alexei Navalny, the leader of the Russian opposition, remains in solitary confinement for what he calls – I want to make sure we get his words exactly right – “Vladimir Putin’s unjust war of aggression in Ukraine,”‘ Roher said, quoting the now famous Russian figure, who he went on to credit for the film’s critical acclaim. ‘I would like to dedicate this award to Navalny, to all political prisoners around the world. Alexey, the world has not forgotten your vital message to us all,’ the 30-year-old director said. ‘We cannot, we must not be afraid to oppose dictators and authoritarianism wherever rears its head.’
Coming as Roher’s fourth-ever feature film, NAVALNY recounts the 2020 attempt on Navalny’s life carried out with the deadly nerve agent from the same family as one used to poison former Putin agent-turned-SAS spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in 2018. After Navalny came forward to allege that Putin’s office played a part in the alleged murder plot, international officials would also cite ‘unequivocal proof’ from toxicology tests that Navalny was poisoned, leaving him in a coma. Those experts have since demanded the Russian government offer an explanation to the event and Navalny’s imprisonment just a few months later, after the leader of Russia’s Anti-Corruption Foundation eventually regained consciousness. The film uses a combination of physical evidence and expert accounts to connect the failed assassination to the Kremlin, who has maintained that Navalny’s sentence is just.
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