Press release

Russia: Freedom House Condemns Imprisonment of Navalny; Crackdown on Peaceful Protesters and Journalists

Russian authorities’ strategy of silencing dissent through intimidation and violence must end.

In response to today’s court decision ordering opposition politician Alexsey Navalny to prison, and Sunday’s violent crackdown on peaceful protesters opposing his arrest and the journalists covering the demonstrations, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“Russian authorities’ repressive and desperate attempts to silence anyone who challenges Vladimir Putin’s grip on power are an affront to the Russian people, who are demanding accountability for the corruption pervading the entire political system,” said Marc Behrendt, director of Europe and Eurasia programs at Freedom House. “The politically motivated imprisonment of Navalny is the result of a sham prosecution. Navalny’s persecution, and the detention on Sunday of thousands of peaceful demonstrators supporting him and the journalists covering the protests, are an attempt to intimidate dissenting voices in Russia and silence Russian independent media. We call on the Russian authorities to immediately release Navalny and other political prisoners, stop arresting and brutalizing peaceful protesters and independent journalists, and repeal legislation restricting freedom of assembly and expression in Russia.”

On January 31, thousands of people peacefully demonstrated in 85 Russian cities to demand the release of opposition leader Alexsey Navalny. Over 5,500 demonstrators were detained by law enforcement, as well as at least 82 journalists in 31 cities, according to the Russian Union of Journalists. In Moscow and St. Petersburg, riot police confronted protesters and journalists with tear gas and stun guns. Sergei Smirnov, the chief editor of Mediazona, was detained in Moscow on Saturday as he was walking with his young son; he is accused of inciting illegal demonstrations through social media. 

On February 2, a Moscow court ruled that Navalny had violated the terms of his probation and sentenced him to three-and-a-half years in prison, of which he is expected to serve two years and eight months in light of time already spent under house arrest. Navalny was arrested in January 2021 after returning to Russia from Germany, where he received treatment after a poisoning attack.

Russia is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2020, Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2020, and is categorized as a Consolidated Authoritarian Regime in Nations in Transit 2020.