Procaccini on the death of Alexei Navalny:

“On 16 February they killed a free man, but thousands more were born”.

Today, MEPs gathered to pay tribute to Russian anti-corruption activist and 2021 Sakharov Prize laureate, Alexei Navalny, in the presence of his widow Yulia Navalnaya.

ECR Co-Chairman Nicola Procaccini today spoke on behalf of the ECR Group, following Yulia Navalnaya’s address to the Parliament.

His speech reads in full:

“Thank you, Madam President, I have spoken many times in this Chamber. But never before have I felt the weight of these words. The emotion that runs through all of us; the sense of history that we seem to be able to grasp at this moment. I listened to Mrs Navalnaya’s words, trying to maintain a respectful distance so as not to be swayed by emotion, but it was difficult. Personally, I have been following Alexei Navalny’s political case for years. I have always appreciated the courage and imagination, the serenity and faith with which he has pursued his ideas. Even when few could understand their meaning, their value.

An ‘extremist’ is how even the Western mainstream, and usually Putin’s public television, sometimes labelled him. In reality, Alexei Navalny was simply a man in love with Russia, its history and its people. A Christian born into a military family, Alexei was not a pacifist, but he always fought for his country without weapons or fear. They tried to kill him many times, in the most cowardly way. They almost succeeded. But nothing. So he kissed his wife goodbye, said goodbye to his boys, got on a plane and flew back to Russia, where he knew the harshest imprisonment and the most predictable death would await him. His existence ended, but not his dream of a Russia free of tyrants and at peace with the world.

Someone said: ‘Blessed are the people who have no need of heroes.’ I disagree, all peoples need them. In peace and in war. They are the men and women who speak to others and for others, even when all are silent and alone.

Like that young man who, in August so many years ago, faced death alone by burning himself in front of the Soviet tanks invading Prague. The day Jan Palach died, freedom won and the Europe we love was born.

It will be the same for Alexei Navalny. On 16 February they killed one free man, but thousands more were born. In Russia, in Europe and in the world.”

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