Statement | Europe cannot let Navalny’s death be in vain

On the 16th of February 2024, Europe witnessed one of the last symbols of resistance in Russia violently fade as the criminal Putin regime murdered its most prominent critic. Sakharov prize winner Alexei Navalny inspired countless young people in Russia to fight for their future and his sacrifice reminds us of how important it is to never remain silent and oppose authoritarianism in all its forms.

Europe watched for decades as democracy in Russia was systematically dismantled and democratic forces were violently suppressed. From journalists like Anna Politkovskaya to opposition figures like Boris Nemtsov, the Kremlin has engaged in a campaign to destroy any and all opposition, yet European leaders continued to engage with the Kremlin for years. We cannot let their deaths be in vain.

JEF Europe’s Democracy under Pressure campaign has raised awareness of the erosion of democracy in countries such as Russia and Belarus. This year, we highlight the challenges faced by activists fighting for freedom across our continent. As we lose another advocate for democracy, it’s important that we stand united against tyranny and support democracy wherever it is under attack.

“The murder of Navalny is yet another example of the complete impunity with which the Kremlin regime acts against its own citizens. The message is clear – no one in Russia is free to oppose Putin. Freedom in Russia died years ago and we watched silently as it was buried”, concludes JEF Europe Vice-President Martin Penov.

The Youth Democratic Movement “Vesna” reminds us that Navalny’s legacy cannot be forgotten:

“We are not allowed to give up! These are undoubtedly tragic and mournful days for all of us, but no matter how excruciatingly painful it feels at the moment, we will honour his last wish – we will not give up. In his video message in the event of his murder, he warns us that if they decide to kill him, it means that we are incredibly strong at that moment. And we are strong – we are the legacy he left behind,”

“Today we grieve, but tomorrow we will act. And in order to act we will need your support. We call upon all those who believe in freedom and democracy to stand with us. Autocratic regimes do not crumble under condolences, they fall when courageous citizens, bolstered by allies both within and beyond their borders, unite to dismantle the structures of tyranny. Be our ally,” adds a representative of the movement.

We call on Europe’s leaders to impose harsher sanctions on the Kremlin, call out this injustice and amplify democratic voices across the region. The terror of the Putin regime cannot continue. JEF Europe will always stand with those fighting for freedom and democracy. 

JEF previous positions

16/03/2023 Press Release | Democracy under Pressure” 2023: JEF Europe builds a European chain of democracy
13/11/2022 Resolution | The EU response to the Russian Federation’s aggression of Ukraine
24/02/2022 Statement | Europe’s youth stand against Russian aggression and in support of Ukraine’s future
22/02/2022 Statement | Europe must unite against the Kremlin’s aggression
19/02/2021 Statement | Russian universities must remain free from authoritarianism

About JEF

The Young European Federalists (JEF) Europe is a non-partisan youth NGO with 10,000 members active in over 35 countries. The organisation strives towards a federal Europe based on the principles of democracy and subsidiarity as well as respect for human rights. JEF promotes true European Citizenship, and works towards more active participation of young people in democratic life. While the umbrella organisation JEF Europe was founded in 1972, its sections have been operating continuously since the end of the Second World War, making it the oldest pro-European and only federalist youth organisation.

About “Vesna”

Vesna” is a movement of concerned young citizens: liberals, democrats and human rights activists who want to build a new Russia based on freedom and human rights. Founded in 2013 in St. Petersburg, the movement has been uniting like-minded people across Russia, organizing public campaigns and vibrant street actions, monitoring elections, and promoting the values of democracy and peace.

About Democracy under Pressure

Since 2006, JEF Europe has organised an annual “Free Belarus” action to draw attention across Europe to the authoritarian regime of Aleksander Lukashenka, commonly referred to as Europe’s last dictator. There has been democratic backsliding across the continent since then, and so JEF’s Free Belarus action broadened into the campaign ‘Democracy under Pressure’ in which JEF Europe calls out abuses of human rights and the rule of law.

Contact information

Martin Penov
Young European Federalists (JEF Europe)

Milana Shesterikova
International Officer
Youth Democratic Movement Vesna