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Navalny Ally Sobol Vows To Keep Fighting Putin's 'Criminal Regime'

Lyubov Sobol - Current Time Interview - Evening
Lyubov Sobol - Current Time Interview - Evening

Russian opposition politician Lyubov Sobol says she doesn't feel "fully safe" after recently fleeing Russia in the summer, but she insists she will continue to fight against President Vladimir Putin's "criminal regime" and widespread corruption in her country.

Speaking in an October 21 interview with Current Time via a video link from an unknown location, Sobol declined to reveal her whereabouts.

Sobol, a close associate of Aleksei Navalny, fled Russia in August after she was handed a parole-like sentence amid an intensifying crackdown on groups and individual linked to the jailed opposition leader and anti-corruption campaigner. Media reports last month placed the 34-year-old lawyer, who was recently added to Russia's wanted list, in neighboring Estonia.

Asked about possible concerns regarding her safety, Sobol said she had switched from a "more dangerous" location to a "little less dangerous" one.

"But do I feel fully safe? Of course not. I think that no one who fights against Putin's criminal regime can feel fully safe," she told the Russian-language network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA..

"The key issue is whether I will continue to engage in political activities and fight against corruption, speak the truth, and be the voice of ordinary people -- and I will continue doing all that," she added.

The opposition politician and lawyer for Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) fled Russia days after a Moscow court found her guilty of publicly calling for people to attend rallies supporting Navalny after he was jailed upon his return to Russia from Germany where he was receiving treatment for a poisoning he blames on the Kremlin.

The court ruled Sobol's actions violated measures aimed at curbing the coronavirus pandemic and sentenced her to 18 months of parole-like limits on her freedom.

Several Navalny associates have been found guilty on similar charges, which justice officials have been using as a thinly veiled pretense for rounding up those around the Kremlin's most vocal critic.

Separately, another court in the Russian capital in April handed Sobol a one-year suspended sentence of correctional labor after finding her guilty of trespassing in what she described as a ruling designed to silence her.

Sobol was added recently to Russia's database of wanted persons at the Interior Ministry with the designation that she is "wanted under an article of the Criminal Code."

Sobol told Current Time that she learned about the move through the media and that she still had not received an official notice of the designation, nor the reason behind it.

She said, however, she assumed the decision is linked to the April court verdict.

"I personally did not receive any warnings from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. And as far as I understand, my lawyer [Vladimir] Voronin, who represents my interests in criminal cases, also didn't," she said.

Navalny was arrested in January after returning to Russia from Germany, where he was treated for a near-fatal poisoning with a Novichok-type nerve agent that he says was ordered by Putin.

In February, Navalny was convicted of violating the terms of a suspended sentence related to an embezzlement case that he has called politically motivated. Due to the violation, which occurred because he needed life-saving treatment in Germany, his suspended sentence of 2 1/2 years was changed to real prison time.

Profile: Aleksei Navalny, Winner Of The Sakharov Prize
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Navalny was awarded the European Union's top human rights honor -- the Sakharov prize -- earlier this week, which the opposition politician said was a "great honor and responsibility" that sends a signal of support to anti-corruption crusaders around the globe.

Commenting on Navalny’s award, Sobol said the prize "is very important and fully deserved."

Putin "is seriously upset that Navalny hasn't been forgotten -- especially given that they are trying to isolate him in a prison, to make his life hard in detention," she said.

She said she didn't expect "any immediate effect" from Navalny receiving the award, but that it will "definitely contribute to the struggle for Navalny's release from prison."