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Jailed Russian Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny’s Wife Speaks At Oscars: ‘Stay Strong, My Love’

The wife of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny had a special message for her husband from the Oscars stage after a documentary on him won the Academy Award on Sunday.

“Navalny,” directed by Daniel Roher, explored the 2020 assassination attempt on Navalny.

“My husband is in prison just for telling the truth,” Navalny’s wife Yulia Navalnaya said Sunday at the 95th annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles, The Hill reported. “My husband is in prison just for defending democracy.”

“Alexey, I’m dreaming of the day when you will be free and our country will be free. Stay strong, my love,” she continued.

Navalny, 46, has been one of the most outspoken critics of the Kremlin and is an anti-corruption campaigner. He launched his presidential campaign in 2016. He survived an assassination attempt when he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok in 2020. Navalny accused President Vladimir Putin of being responsible for his poisoning, but Russia denied any involvement in the poisoning. His recovery was soon followed by his detainment. But even from jail, he managed to be one of the strongest critics of the war in Ukraine.

The documentary, “Navalny,” explores the opposition leader’s poisoning and even includes a clip of him on the phone with one of the alleged poisoners. Navalny pretended to be a government official and managed to get incriminating details of the assassination attempt from the alleged poisoner over the phone call.

“Navalny is the only politician in Russia other than the governing regime that has a national profile that every Russian knows. And it seems to be just a part of Russian history that if you want to make your mark, you have to do your time in the gulag. Well, Navalny is putting in his time, he’s forced to,” Roher said in an interview with NPR earlier this month.

Despite “two years of torture and prison,” Navalny has not lost his sense of humor or his spirit, Roher added. “I think as long as his spirit is unbroken, hope for millions of Russians is also unbroken.”

As the director took the stage to accept the award, he said: “There’s one person who couldn’t be with us here tonight.”

“Alexei Navalny, the leader of the Russian opposition, remains in solitary confinement for what he calls — I want to make sure we get his words exactly right — ‘Vladimir Putin’s unjust war of aggression in Ukraine,'” he said.

“I would like to dedicate this award to Navalny, to all political prisoners around the world. Alexey, the world has not forgotten your vital message to us all. We cannot, we must not be afraid to oppose dictators and authoritarianism wherever rears its head,” Roher added as Navalny’s wife, daughter and son stood behind him.

Navalny’s daughter, Daria Navalnaya, said she was “very happy that the movie is getting the attention that it deserves.”

Roher, in an interview in January, said Navalny still hasn’t seen the Oscar-winning documentary, which shares a slice of his journey as one of Russia’s fiercest opposition leaders.

“For me, that’s a very bitter part of this,” Roher told Deadline. “It’s very sad that he hasn’t gotten to see the film. One thing I always think of with Navalny is how enthusiastic he was about being a film subject. He’s a very curious man and he’s very, very curious about the filmmaking process… I certainly hope I’ll get to show it to him one day.”