Russian director Andrei Zvyagintsev gave a speech in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny at a rally in Novosibirsk earlier today.
“It is quite obvious to me that in this country, there is no right, no law, nothing, you cannot rely on anything,” the Venice and Cannes Film Festival winner said to the 4,000 Novosibirsk protesters demanding medical care for Navalny, “only on collaboration and solidarity.”
The director of Leviathan (2014) then went on to compare Navalny to Lancelot. “He rolls off to death in the literal sense of the word, a man who is now burning for all of us in this flame. Lancelot entered the dragon’s mouth. [...] What should the rest of us do? It is completely incomprehensible to remain spectators of this fight, which cannot even be called a fight, or to somehow participate in it.”
In the speech, Zvyagintsev referenced an open letter addressed to Russian President Vadimir Putin published on 16 April, which was signed by more than 1,000 cultural personalities and celebrities, including Nobel laureates Svetlana Alexievich, Louise Gluck, and Herta Muller, and Hollywood stars such as Jude Law or Pedro Almodovar, who “ask for a simple thing: provide medical assistance to a person.” In addition, the Russian director praised Nikolai Formozov, a former professor at St Petersburg’s Higher School of Economics and Moscow State University, who announced his decision to go on hunger strike in solidarity with Navalny, who hasn’t eaten for more than three weeks, in protest against the inhumane imprisonment conditions. “Here, only action is needed, because talking about it is already absolutely meaningless,” the director added.
In the closing lines, Zvyagintsev drew attention to “the absence of the state — a sense of absence of someone who has vowed to be the guarantor of the life and dignity of citizens.”
Thousands of Russians are protesting across the country today, following a call by Navalny’s team, who said that the politician “could die any minute” from cardiac arrest and urgently requires access to his doctors. The protesters are asking for the liberation of all of Russia’s political prisoners, and an end to state corruption. They chant, “Down with the Tsar”, and “Putin is a thief”. So far, according to Mediazona, more than 100 people have been detained country-wide for taking part in the demonstrations.
Navalny has been imprisoned since he arrived in Russia in January, following hospitalisation in Germany, where he recovered from the poisoning with a nerve-agent attack, which he blames on the Kremlin. He was sentenced to two and a half years for breaking parole.