Putin Critics Jailed in Russia Offer New Year’s Messages

There are now so many imprisoned opponents of President Vladimir V. Putin and his full-scale invasion of Ukraine that a new tradition has emerged in Russia: New Year’s greetings from political prisoners.

Aleksei A. Navalny, the prominent opposition leader who has been behind bars since the start of 2021, said he received so many seasonal decorations in letters from supporters that he hung them up in his prison cell. his prison outside Moscow. An hour later, the director took them down, “but the feeling remained,” he said.

Mr Navalny’s treatment in prison has worsened, including repeated stints in solitary confinement, but he still receives visits from lawyers and is able to pass on messages to his supporters.

“The calamity that has befallen our country has brought all normal, decent people closer together, and it is no surprise that a bond appears between them,” Mr. Navalny wrote in an Instagram post on Saturday, thanking his supporters. “I can feel it.”

The New Year’s messages from Putin’s critics are something of a counter-programming to the president’s traditional year-end speech, who delivered his speech on New Year’s Eve surrounded by men and women in uniform. Mr Putin has vowed to continue his attack on Ukraine, saying “moral and historical justice is on our side”.

Ilya Yashin, an anti-Kremlin activist and politician sentenced in December to eight and a half years in prison for “spreading false information” about atrocities committed in the Ukrainian town of Bucha by Russian troops, wrote on Friday that he had been transferred to a prison in Izhevsk, a town 600 miles east of Moscow.

“I’m fine, my friends,” Mr. Yashin wrote. “I want to remind you that the criminal war against Ukraine must be stopped, Putin must go, and Russia must be free and happy.” He added his prison address to the message, reminding his followers that they could write to him through the Russian prison system’s online service.

Mediazona, an independent Russian media, published an article on Saturday collecting New Year’s wishes from political prisoners. Aleksei Gorinov, a Moscow lawmaker sentenced in July to seven years in prison for speaking out against the war, wrote that he remained “an optimist who believes in man” because “in Russia there is no other way of life”, and wished an end “to this useless and crazy war.

Vladimir Kara-Murza, an activist and journalist under investigation for treason, also showed optimism, even though he faces up to 20 years in prison. “The past year has become one of the darkest in the memory of living generations,” Kara-Murza wrote. “But dawn comes even after the darkest night – and it will certainly come.”


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