BERLIN (AP) – Supporters of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny set up a replica of the tiny “punishment cell” in which he was repeatedly held outside the Russian embassy in Berlin on Tuesday to draw attention to his fate.
About 100 people – including Navalny’s brother Oleg – took part in the demonstration on the German capital’s famous Unter den Linden boulevard. Some held placards calling for the release of all political prisoners in Russia, others calling for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be tried for war crimes in Ukraine.
“There is a connection between what is happening to Alexei Navalny and the war in Ukraine,” said organizer Leonid Volkov, head of the anti-corruption organization Navalny, which was founded more than a decade ago.
Volkov said the 2020 poisoning of Navalny and his subsequent imprisonment upon his return from Germany — he is now serving a nine-year sentence for fraud — was part of a Kremlin crackdown on Russian opposition before he launched the attack Ukraine started.
He said Navalny had repeatedly spoken out against the war at trials. “Every time he does it, he gets punished,” he added.
Volkov said Russian authorities remained sensitive to outside pressures, such as when hundreds of doctors recently requested medical treatment for Navalny.
“There may be signs that they are actually listening in the Kremlin,” he said. “Not because they’re good people – they’re not – not because they’re humanistic, but because they’re vulnerable.”
Volkov suggested that Putin could try to use Navalny in possible future peace talks.
“He knows that at some point he will be forced into negotiations and then, okay, there will be a lot of options on the table,” he said.