Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, 45-year-old activist, was awarded the annual Sakharov prize ,the European Union’s top human rights prize, Wednesday. The European Parliament praised his “immense personal bravery.” “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 mobilize the support of millions of people across Russia. For this, he was poisoned and thrown in jail,” parliament President David Sassoli in a statement. The EU has imposed sanctions on Russian officials over Navalny’s poisoning and imprisonment.The EU has now been calling for his immediate and unconditional release.
Moscow denies any wrongdoing and accuses the EU of interfering in its domestic affairs. Navalny said on Oct. 11 that a prison commission had designated him an extremist and a terrorist, which he denies. Last month Russia opened a new criminal case against Navalny that could keep him in jail for a further decade.”I welcome the fact that a strong voice … in Russia has been awarded this prize,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters. The EU award, named for Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, was created in 1988 to honor individuals or groups who defend human rights and fundamental freedoms.