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Alexei Navalny spends his third birthday behind bars

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny appears on a screen set up in a Moscow City Court courtroom via video link from his penal colony during an appeal hearing against his nine-year prison sentence that it was pronounced in March after being found guilty of embezzlement and contempt of court, in Moscow on May 24, 2022. AFP file photo

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s critic Alexei Navalny celebrated his third birthday behind bars today. As expected, Navalny’s condition in prison is only deteriorating and solitary confinement has only made things worse for him.

However, on his birthday, Navalny said he was in “good spirits”. It came as police on Sunday arrested at least 45 people taking part in pro-Navalny protests in Russian cities including Moscow and St Petersburg, according to specialist NGO OVD-Info.

His team claimed that Navalny had been harassed in prison and held in a “punishment cell” for minor transgressions. His supporters say the authorities are trying to crush his morale.

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In a video message, Navalny said: “On your birthday morning you have to be honest with yourself, so I ask myself the question: am I really in a good mood or is he forcing me to feel this? “

“My answer is: I really am. Let’s face it, of course, I wish I didn’t have to wake up in this hellhole and instead have breakfast with my family, get kisses on the cheek from my kids, unwrap presents…” he added.

“But life works in such a way that social progress and a better future can only be achieved if a number of people are willing to pay the price for their right to hold beliefs.”

Navalny believes that “the day will come when telling the truth and standing up for justice will become something commonplace and not at all dangerous in Russia”.

Putin’s nemesis Navalny is currently serving a nine-year prison sentence for embezzlement and other charges.

He gained worldwide notoriety after barely surviving poisoning with Novichok, a Soviet-designed nerve agent, which the opposition politician blames on the Kremlin.

Navalny is expected to be tried soon in a new “extremism” case and faces an additional 35 years in prison.

He believes the authorities are trying to keep him in prison for life.

With contributions from AFP

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