Imprisoned Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny has been included in Time magazine’s annual list of “the 100 most influential people of 2021.”
Navalny was included in the “Icons” section of the list with such luminaries as British Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, American pop star Britney Spears, Iranian lawyer and rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh, and Korean-American poet Cathy Park Hong.
The essay about Navalny in the magazine was written by chess grandmaster and exiled Russian opposition figure Garry Kasparov, who lauded Navalny for doing “the unimaginable this year” by returning to Russia in January after undergoing medical treatment in Germany for a life-threatening nerve-agent poisoning that he says was carried out by Russian security agents at the behest of authoritarian President Vladimir Putin.
Upon his arrival at the airport, Navalny was arrested. Weeks later he was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for a parole violation, an act he describes as retribution for his prominent opposition political activity.
“Navalny now sits in one of Russia’s worst prisons, his life in the hands of a dictator who all evidence says already tried to kill him once for exposing the grotesque corruption of his regime,” Kasparov wrote. “Navalny saw no alternative to risking everything to make a difference in his country.”
Kasparov called Navalny “a single man without fear.”
Putin, who was not included in this year’s list of most influential people, was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year in 2007.
“He’s not a good guy, but he’s done extraordinary things,” Time managing editor Richard Stengel said at the time. “He’s a new tsar of Russia, and he’s dangerous in the sense that he doesn’t care about civil liberties.”
After imprisoning Navalny, the government declared his Anti-Corruption Foundation and his network of regional offices to be “extremist organizations.”
Many activists associated with the organizations were barred from participating in the September 17-19 elections to the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament. Many senior Navalny colleagues were forced to flee the country under threat of criminal prosecution.
Navalny has said his treatment in prison amounts to torture, as guards wake him every hour during the night because he has been designated a “flight risk.”
With reporting by Reuters