Instead of the opposition politician, who is in a Russian prison now, his closest associates, Vladimir Milov and Leonid Volkov, received the award. The ceremony took place within the framework of the Warsaw Security Forum. The award was presented by the former President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who was awarded the Freedom Knight Award in 2016:
“We are here to honor Alexei Navalny, a man hounded, persecuted, beaten, poisoned and jailed for standing up to a thuggish autocracy that is well on its way to classic totalitarian rule. His crime? Peacefully using his fundamental human right of freedom of expression to challenge a regime held together by storm-troopers, violence and murder.
Navalny’s story is not a new one. In the decade before the collapse of communism, we saw this tale unfold over and over again. Iosif Brodsky, Natan Sharansky, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Andrei Sakharov and hundreds of others were persecuted by that real-life Mordor, the USSR. There is a difference, however. Back in those days, when I was a young research analyst and later the Estonian service director at Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty (RFE-RL), we in the West at least had the moral clarity to stand up to the thugs, to raise these issues with our governments, in our parliaments, in all possible international fora”.
“Alexey Navalny was awarded in recognition of his “outstanding efforts to promote democratic values in Russia, his many years of dedication to bringing values such as freedom, justice, respect for the law and accountability to the Russian state system”, said the Kazimir Pulaski Foundation.
The Freedom Knight Prize is a Polish international human rights award, it has been given since 2005 to people “who have made a significant contribution to the promotion of democracy, freedom and equality throughout the world”. Previously, the only Russian who received it was the founder and ex-head of Yukos, Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Vladimir Milov about the ceremony:
First, I must say that this is a very prestigious award. It is received by various well-known personalities – former presidents, prime ministers. This is a prize for people who have made an important contribution to the development of freedom. It is very visible in the world. Many well-known personalities come to this forum. When I was there for the last time, before covid, two years ago, the award was presented to the former President of Lithuania Grybauskaite.
This is one of the most significant awards in the world, which shows who is the leader of the world struggle for freedom against authoritarianism today. We were warned some time ago, in the spring, that the organizers had chosen Alexei Navalny to present this prize. We consider this extremely important, because it is necessary that our struggle for freedom in Russia does not remain only in Russia, that it is seen in the world. And this would encourage people in different countries to increase international pressure on Putin and stop all this chaos that is happening in our country.