WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., yesterday spoke from the Senate floor in support of Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader, who is currently imprisoned in Russia. Navalny was arrested upon his return to Russia after recovering from an assassination attempt where he was poisoned with a Russian nerve agent.
“The lawless thugs in the Kremlin often avoid saying his name in public, but here on the Senate floor, I am proud to stand in solidarity with Alexei Navalny,” Wicker said.
Navalny’s defense team has recently expressed concerns for his health in the Russian prison, which is known for its abuse of prisoners.
“Any ordinary man would have stayed safe far away from the Kremlin,” Wicker continued. “But Alexei Navalny is no ordinary man.”
During his floor speech, Wicker was joined by Senator Michael Bennet, D-Colo., who shared remarks from Senator Ben Cardin, D-Md., the newly-appointed leader of the U.S. Helsinki Commission and a partner with Wicker on human rights legislation.
Wicker is the ranking Republican member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, which promotes human rights, military security, and economic cooperation in 57 countries in Europe, Eurasia, and North America.
Senator Wicker’s remarks, as delivered, below:
Madam President, I rise this afternoon to call attention to a courageous Russian hero who is in danger even as I speak. A man who has consistently stood up to Putin and his cronies and has, on numerous occasions, placed his own life in jeopardy to bring the truth to light.
The lawless thugs in the Kremlin often avoid saying his name in public, but here on the Senate floor, I am proud to stand in solidarity with Alexei Navalny.
It was just last August that Alexei Navalny, Russia’s foremost opposition leader, was poisoned with a deadly nerve agent. Millions of us remember seeing the video of him being stricken on an airplane, hearing his painful cries – the crew members unsure how to soothe his pain.
Thanks to the quick diplomatic work of our friends in Germany, Mr. Navalny was evacuated to Berlin, where he received expert medical attention and against all odds recovered from this poisoning.
Any ordinary man would have stayed safe far away from the Kremlin. But Alexei Navalny is no ordinary man.
He is a Russian patriot who envisions a different kind of Russia – where citizens have a say in government; where freedom blooms; where the president does not siphon away funds intended for hospitals to build secret palaces or to enrich members of his kleptocracy.
And so, three months ago, Mr. Navalny returned to Russia, knowing full well the dangers he would face. Immediately upon his arrival, he was arrested at the airport for a parole violation, which resulted from his hospitalization which resulted for his poisoning.
He now sits in one of the most notorious penal colonies in Russia, known for psychological torture.
He has been deemed a “flight risk” and is awakened eight times a night under the guise of monitoring his whereabouts. His lawyers were recently prevented from seeing him.
Reports are that he is suffering from severe back pain and other health concerns and has received inadequate medical care. This is a familiar sounding story.
But, Madam President, one thing is clear. The Russian dictatorship is terrified of Alexei Navalny.
He is a threat to them because he has exposed their unbridled corruption and urged voters to demand that the government respect their rights. And because of that Alexei Navalny’s life is in danger at this moment.
The tens of thousands of demonstrators who turned out across Russia to support this jailed opposition leader send an unmistakable message to the Kremlin – you cannot suppress the voice of the people indefinitely.
Freedom-loving Americans, freedom-loving people around the world today are crying out for justice for Alexei Navalny.
He endures the suffering of many before him. In Russia people like Sergei Magnitsky, people like Boris Nemtsov. And abroad, people like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, whose legacies and movements did not rot while they were in prison, but instead helped to bring down oppressive governments.
At this point, I would yield briefly to the Senator from Colorado for a brief intervention before I close…
I appreciate the work of my friend Senator Cardin, Senator Coons….who also wanted to make it clear that on a bipartisan basis, on both sides of the aisle, the United States Senate stands for freedom-loving people in Russia and for their spokesman, Alexei Navalny.
And we intend to shine the light of public opinion on the actions of the Russian kleptocracy and dictatorship with regard to prisoners and patriots like Alexei Navalny.
Thank you, Madam President.