More than 2000 participants in Berlin demanded the release of Navalny and all political prisoners in Russia. On January 23rd, a large demonstration by Russians took place in the German capital under the motto “Freedom for Alexey Navalny”. According to the Berlin police, 2000 people took part. According to participants’ estimates, it could have been much more. In an appeal by the Berlin-based “Forum Russian-speaking Europeans” it said about Navalny:
“After a long period of rehabilitation, he flew back to Russia and was immediately arrested and sentenced to 30 days in prison. (…) Vladimir Putin is so afraid of Navalny and all of us that he is ready to imprison Alexey for years, even if it means breaking several laws. We can’t let that happen!
Therefore, on January 23rd, people in Russia will come together to support Alexey Navalny. We, Russian speakers living in Germany, will support this protest (…) We support other political prisoners as well as Ukrainian citizens who habe bee captured in Russian prisons.”
In the appeal, the German federal government was also called on to campaign for the release of Navalny. The call went on to say:
“We are gathering in Berlin to express our solidarity with Alexey, but also with all fighters for freedom and justice in Russia.
Much depends on our activism. Let us show the German community and the government that Putin is not Russia, that many Russians are against the dictatorship, that they are looking for freedom and democracy in Russia!”
Shame on Putin’s judiciary
The demonstration should begin at 2 p.m. in front of the Federal Chancellery.
A large number of people had gathered there punctually with many banners and posters. These had labels like “PUT him IN Prison”, “Shame for Putin’s Justice”, “Our Russia is in Jail”, “Russia without Putin”, “Stop Political Repression in Russia”, “I want to live in a free Russia”, Free political prisoners”, and again and again: “Free Navalny!”
Because of Corona, all demonstrators wore face-to-face masks and tried to keep their distance as prescribed. A striking number of young Russians also took part in the demonstration, including families with children. Belarusians could also be seen, recognizable by their red and white flags or items of clothing. In addition, among other Germans, who declared their solidarity with demands for freedom an the rule of law in Russia.
Demonstration along the Russian embassy
After speeches by various speakers in front of the Chancellery, the demonstration then set off along Yitzhak-Rabin-Street and Street of 17th June towards the Brandenburg Gate. From there it went in an arc over Wilhelm-, Behrens- and Glinkastreet to the famous “Unter den Linden” street.
There the more than 2000 participants passed directly in front of the Russian Embassy to the Brandenburg Gate for a final rally with various speakers. Michael Leh, board member of the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) spoke to the Russians at “Pariser Platz” in front of the Brandenburg Gate. Leh underlined the demonstrators’ call for the immediate release of Navalny and all other political prisoners in Russia. He emphasized the courage of Navalny and the bravery of his wife Julia. “It is often asked,” he said, “why Alexej Navalny is putting himself in danger of returning to Russia after the assassination attempt on him.”
“But,” he added, under the strong apprehension of the audience, “there is not only something to lose, there is also something to gain – namely freedom”.
Leh also referred to courageous freedom fighters in other countries, such as Maria Kalesnikava in Belarus or the 73-year-old media entrepreneur and democrat Jimmy Lai in Hong Kong.
“Both of them could have left their country,” he explained, “but because of their convictions they also accepted imprisonment.” “We, who live in freedom, are obliged not to forget such political prisoners, but to stand up for them,” Leh said.
Thanks to all demonstration participants
The ISHR representative also pointed out that the German Federal Public Prosecutor sees Russian state agencies as commissioners for the murder of Tornike K. in the Berlin park “Kleiner Tiergarten” in 2019. Vadim K., who carried out the murder with a Glock 26 pistol with a silencer, is currently underway in Berlin. Leh thanked all demonstrators for coming and for their commitment to freedom and democracy in their home country. He especially thanked the present Dmitriy Bagrasch and Igor Eidman – this is a cousin of the murdered Boris Nemtsov – who held the week-long protest rally “Stop Putin’s Terror” directly opposite the Russian embassy in Berlin last September. The protest action also provided information about numerous political murders in Russia and outside Russia on behalf of Russia. At the beginning of his address, the ISHR board member also recalled that the ISHR was largely co-founded by a great Russian human rights activist, namely Ivan Agrusov. “We have been campaigning for the release of political prisoners in the Soviet Union and Russia for decades,” said Leh, “also for Andrey Sakharov”.
All photos: Leh