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Imprisoned Alexey Navalny wins EU’s 2021 Sakharov Prize

Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny, who is currently serving a years-long prison sentence, has won this year’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, European Parliament President David Sassoli announced on Wednesday, October 20. 

“He has fought tirelessly against the corruption of Vladimir Putin's regime. This cost him his liberty and nearly his life. Today's prize recognises his immense bravery and we reiterate our call for his immediate release,” Sassoli wrote in his announcement on Twitter. 

The Sakharov Prize is the European Union’s top human rights award. The European Parliament has awarded it every since 1988, in memory of Soviet physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov.

Previous winners of the 50,000-euro ($58,000) award include South African President Nelson Mandela, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Soviet-Russian human rights activist Lyudmila Alekseeva, and Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov. The 2020 Sakharov Prize was awarded to Belarus’s democratic opposition. 

Since the start of the year, Alexey Navalny has been awarded several prestigious human rights prizes, including the Boris Nemtsov Prize and the Geneva Forum on Human Rights and Democracy’s Courage Award, among others. 

Navalny was also nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, which was ultimately awarded to Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, the editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and Philippine journalist Maria Ressa. Navalny’s associates publicly condemned the decision not to award the prize to him, but Navalny personally extended congratulations to Muratov and Ressa. 

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