Alexei Navalny’s Spokeswoman Leaves Russia

Kim Yarmysh, spokeswoman for jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has left Russia, the Interfax Russian news agency reported citing two anonymous sources. One of the sources said that Yarmysh flew to the Finnish capital Helsinki. This comes after the Russian court imposed 18 months of restrictions on her freedom of movement after finding her guilty of breaching COVID-19 safety rules, Reuters said. Russian authorities have cracked down hard on the opposition in response to the upcoming parliamentary election next month. Most of Navalny’s most prominent allies have fled Russia instead of facing restrictions or jail time at home. 

Yarmysh was accused of the following: leaving her home at night, taking part in rallies in support of Navalny, and changing her home address without notifying prison authorities. She was found guilty of breaking COVID-19 safety rules over what police cite as an illegal protest supporting Navalny last winter. Yarmysh has appealed this accusation and called it politically motivated. 

Alexei Navalny is serving two and a half years for parole violations in an embezzlement case, according to Reuters. His allies accuse Russian authorities of using the law to crush dissenting voices. Navalny is the most prominent face of Russian opposition to President Vladimir Putin, according to BBC News. He has millions of Russian followers on social media, a majority of whom are in their early 20s or younger. Navalny managed to get some of his supporters elected to local councils in Siberia in 2020 but has yet to challenge Putin at the ballot box. 

Navalny was immediately arrested in January after he flew back to Moscow from Berlin, where he suffered a near-fatal nerve agent attack. The German government conducted tests and revealed that there was “unequivocal proof of a chemical nerve warfare agent of the Novichok group” that caused Navalny to collapse. The Kremlin has denied any involvement in this and rejected the Novichok finding, according to BBC News. The European Union imposed sanctions on six top Russian officials and a Russian chemical research centre, accusing them of direct involvement in Navalny’s poisoning. 

Navalny was jailed for violating the terms of a 2014 suspended sentence for fraud. He failed to report regularly to the police in 2020. In response to his arrest, Navalny supporters staged mass protests across Russia. Police responded with force. Thousands were detained for attending the unauthorized rallies. Navalny himself went on hunger strike for some time, according to AP news. He protested that he was not receiving proper medical attention since he lost sensation in his legs and arms due to the poisoning. 

His dissent toward Putin’s United Russia party comes from his belief that the party is full of “crooks and thieves” BBC News reported. Navalny has accused the president of concentrating power in the Kremlin, claiming that its patronage system is reminiscent of tsarist Russia. 

His jail term was given in February 2021, and the European Court of Human Rights ruled that he should be freed immediately because of the risk to his life. Russia has rejected the decision. Amnesty International revoked his status as a “prisoner of conscience” after they said it was subject to an “orchestrated campaign” to “delist” him. However, it has still called for Navalny’s release. 

Various treaties, like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, recognize the human right to protest, peaceful assembly, and expression. The Russian Federation signed the ICCPR treaty, which entered into force on January 3, 1976. Flagrant flouting of these international conventions undermines their legitimacy and thereby puts human rights at risk. The Russian Federation should abide by Navalny’s human right to dissent and or protest his government, instead of displaying their power through his arrest. The international community must be unequivocal in condemning Russia’s actions while making sure that such international “misbehavior” meets appropriate consequences. 

Jadenne Radoc Cabahug
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