BRUSSELS – The young adult daughter of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny received a standing ovation from European Union lawmakers as she accepted the EU's top human rights prize on her father's behalf Wednesday.
The European Parliament, in a clear slap at Russian President Vladimir Putin, named Navalny, 45, in October as the winner of this year's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
Navalny narrowly survived an August 2020 nerve agency poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin and the Kremlin denies. He spent months recuperating in Germany. He was promptly arrested upon his return to Moscow in January and later imprisoned.
Daria Navalnaya displayed a framed picture of her father while delivering a speech to EU lawmakers. Opposing what she called a pragmatic approach in dealing with Russia and authoritarian regimes, she said she wrote to her father to find out what message he would like to convey.
“He answered, ‘Say that no one can dare to equate Russia to Putin’s regime. Russia is a part of Europe, and we strive to become a part of it," said Navalnaya, who was born in 2001.
“But we also want Europe to strive for itself," she added. "We strive for a Europe of ideas, the celebration of human rights, democracy and integrity. And we don’t want a Europe of chancellors and ministers who dream of getting a job on the board of Putin’s state companies or sailing on oligarchs' yachts."
European Parliament President David Sassoli, who is from Italy, called Navalny a political prisoner and reiterated the EU legislature's call for the Russian opposition leader's immediate and unconditional release.
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. Sakharov, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, died in 1989.
Last year, the award went to the opposition movement in Belarus and its leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, for their challenge to President Alexander Lukashenko’s rule following the country's widely disputed August 2020 presidential election.