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Dresden, Germany

The well-known Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny was posthumously awarded the Dresden International Peace Prize on Sunday.

His widow Yulia Navalnaya accepted the award on his behalf, which is endowed with 10,000 euros ($10,774), at the eastern German city’s Schauspielhaus theatre.

Former German president Joachim Gauck honoured the man who died in prison almost three months ago as a “selfless, almost superhumanly courageous man who shows that there can be another Russia.”

Navalny’s life’s work is “a monument, he remains a role model for all those who believe in freedom and dignity, including the people of Russia.” His long-standing fight “against the corrupt elite” was ultimately one of the “most important delegitimizing factors of the Putin system,” said Gauck, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin, of whom Navalny was an ardent critic.

There are not many others “who stick to their goals so unwaveringly, so absolutely free of fear and unbroken,” despite permanent intimidation and harassment.

It was “encouraging and inspiring” to see her continue his work “so unwaveringly, so courageously and self-confidently,” Gauck said to Yulia Navalnaya. “I bow to you with great esteem and deep respect.” In an epilogue to the laudatory speech, he then spontaneously doubled the prize money because he was unable to attend the memorial service in Moscow.

The world must finally put aside its illusions and false hopes and listen to those who have warned against Putin all these years, Navalnaya appealed in her acceptance speech, referring to the war against Ukraine, which her husband had condemned to the end.

You can’t negotiate with Putin, you can’t believe a single word he says, he will never stop, she said. Putin is war, she added. She dedicated the award to those who fight for peace in Russia and risk everything in the process. Navalny died under unexplained circumstances in a Siberian prison camp inside the Arctic Circle on February 16.

Former German interior minister Gerhart Baum, representing the organizers, described Navalny as a “human rights defender” who had given his life. “He has set an example, and he is not alone.”

This award was also an honour for his wife Yulia, who supported and continued his fight, Baum said. “[His legacy] must be remembered and we must ask ourselves what we can do for freedom, not only here but also in Russia.”

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