‘Navalny,’ portrait of Kremlin critic, wins best documentary Oscar

March 13, 2023 - 9:18 AM
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Yulia Navalny, wife of jailed dissident Alexei Navalny, speaks next to her daughter Daria and director Daniel Roher after "Navalny" was awarded for Best Documentary Feature Film during the Oscars show at the 95th Academy Awards in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 12, 2023. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

 The film “Navalny” about the poisoning that nearly killed Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, and his detention upon his 2021 return to Moscow, won the Oscar for best feature documentary on Sunday.

RELATED: Full list of winners at the 2023 Oscars

The documentary follows Navalny as he recovers in Germany from his poisoning in Siberia with a Soviet-era nerve toxin which Western nations said was a Russian state assassination attempt to silence the outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin denied involvement.

In the CNN Films/HBO Max documentary directed by Daniel Roher, Navalny works with investigative news outlet Bellingcat and they unmask FSB agents sent to poison Navalny in 2020. Navalny, pretending to be a Russian official, calls one of the agents who describes the poisoning plot.

He decides to return to Russia in January 2021 with his wife Yulia, and throngs of supporters await his arrival. He is arrested at the airport and later sentenced to a combined 11-1/2 years in jail in two separate fraud cases, which he says were trumped up to silence him.

His anti-corruption organization was banned as extremist.

His daughter, Daria Navalnaya, attended the Oscars ceremony and said she was “very happy that the movie is getting the attention that it deserves.”

“Don’t stop fighting for democracy and freedom around the world and we’re going to get my dad out and we’re going to keep fighting,” she said in an interview on arrival for the Oscars.

Navalny, 46, is the highest profile of the few remaining opposition voices in Russia and is serving his sentence in a maximum security penal colony in Russia. Supporters say his health has deteriorated after around a dozen spells in solitary confinement.

Appealing unsuccessfully in May against one of his sentences, Navalny cast Putin as a doomed madman who started a “stupid war” against Ukraine that was butchering innocent people of both Ukraine and Russia.

At the end of the film, Navalny is asked what his message would be to the Russian people if he were killed.

“You’re not allowed to give up,” he said.

—Reporting by Mary Milliken and Howard Goller