Jailed Putin-foe Alexei Navalny's family attend dinner in Washington

Jailed Putin-foe Alexei Navalny’s wife Yulia and daughter Daria attend White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington

  • Alexei Navalny is currently in a Russian prison after being detained in 2021
  • He faces further charges of extremism and terrorism amid Putin’s crackdown 

The family of a Russian opposition leader jailed for speaking out against Vladimir Putin attended the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner last night in the company of President Joe Biden and leading journalists from around the world.

Yulia Navalnaya, 46 – the wife of incarcerated dissident Alexei Navalny – along with their daughter Daria Navalnaya, 22, were pictured arriving at the event as they continue to advocate for Mr Navalny’s release. 

Mr Navalny, an opposition leader who is one of Putin’s most vehement critics, was poisoned by Russian authorities using a nerve agent on a flight in 2020.

He was evacuated to Germany, but was detained on arrival in Russia in January 2021, before being sentenced to nine years in prison in March 2022 – having already been jailed for more than two years in February 2021.

Julia and Daria were guests of CNN at the event, which took a much more serious tone than in previous years as the President acknowleged the American journalists under siege in authoritarian countries around the world.

Yulia Navalnaya (left) – the wife of incarcerated dissident Alexei Navalny – along with their daughter Daria Navalnaya (right), 22, were pictured arriving at the event

Alexei Navalny, an opposition politician who is one of Putin’s most vehement critics, was poisoned by Russian authorities using a nerve agent on a flight to the country in 2020

Arriving at the dinner, both Navalnayas were pictured alongside CCN anchor Jim Sciutto.

He tweeted: ‘A true honor to sit with Yulia Navalnaya, economist and wife of Alexey Navalny, and their daughter and Stanford stand-out Daria Navalnaya last night – as they continue to fight for his freedom with stunning courage and calm.’

‘We are here to send a message to the country and, quite frankly, to the world: The free press is a pillar, maybe the pillar, of a free society, not the enemy,’ Biden said in his speech.

The president and first lady Jill Biden, upon arriving at the Washington Hilton on Saturday, met privately with the parents of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been imprisoned in Russia since March. 

He was charged with spying, despite strong denials from his employer and the US government. Some guests wore buttons with ‘Free Evan’ printed on them.

Also among the 2,600 people attending the gala was Debra Tice, the mother of Austin Tice, who has not been heard from since disappearing at a checkpoint in Syria in 2012. 

US officials say they operate under the assumption that he is alive and are working to try to bring him home.

‘Journalism is not a crime,’ Biden said. ‘Evan and Austin should be released immediately along with every other American detained abroad.’ 

He added: ‘I promise you, I am working like hell to get them home.’

Jill Biden became the first US president to attend the annual dinner in six years, after Trump refused to accept the invitation

The pair were pictured alongside CNN anchor Jim Sciutto

Mr Navalny this week said the charges against him could see him kept in jail until 2050

This year’s dinner saw a more solemn focus on US journalists who have been detained by foreign authorities

The Bidens also made a beeline for Brittney Griner, the WNBA star and Olympic gold medalist who was detained in Russia for nearly 10 months last year before her release in a prisoner swap. Griner attended with her wife, Cherelle, as guests of CBS News.

Read more: Jailed Putin foe Alexei Navalny says he’s likely to languish behind bars until 2050 on ‘absurd’ charges

‘This time last year we were praying for you, Brittney,’ Biden said to the basketball star.

Biden spent the majority of his speech focused on the issue of press freedom. 

The Washington event returned last year after being sidelined by the pandemic in 2020 and 2021. Biden was the first president in six years to accept the invitation after Donald Trump shunned the event while in office. 

The detention of western citizens by Russia follows the attempted poisoning of Mr Navalny in 2020 and a long history of the country censoring and cracking down on news which is critical of Putin’s regime. 

On Thursday Mr Navalny made a rare appearance from incarceration as he faced yet more extremism and terrorism charges.

The Kremlin’s leading critic, who appeared at the hearing via video-link from prison, said the ‘absurd’ charges could see him in jail until 2050. 

He is currently serving time at a maximum security prison 150 miles (250km) east of Moscow.

While imprisoned, Mr Navalny has spent months in a tiny one-person cell, also called a ‘punishment cell’, for purported disciplinary violations such as an alleged failure to properly button his prison robe, properly introduce himself to a guard or to wash his face at a specified time.

Mr Navalny said on Tuesday that he had completed a 15-day stay in the punishment cell and was immediately ordered to spend another 15 days there. 

‘In the past two years, the Russian government has only intensified its witch-hunt of opposition and civil society organizations. Not one critic, human rights defender or independent journalist is safe from the threat of persecution, reprisals and repression,’ said Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Russia Director in January. 

‘Following Aleksei Navalny’s attempted poisoning in 2020 and arrest in 2021, Russian authorities sought to destroy freedom of expression in the country. This swift and ruthless crackdown allowed them to quickly stop mass protests against the full-scale invasion of Ukraine a year later.’ 

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