Putin Has a New Year’s Message. So Do His Critics, From Jail.
There are now so many jailed opponents of President Vladimir V. Putin and his full-scale invasion of Ukraine that a new tradition has emerged in Russia: New Year’s greetings from political prisoners.
Aleksei A. Navalny, the prominent opposition leader who has been behind bars since early 2021, said that he had received so many seasonal decorations in letters from supporters that he hung them up in his cell at his prison outside Moscow. An hour later, the warden took them down, “but the feeling remained,” he said.
Mr. Navalny’s treatment in prison has worsened, including repeated stints in solitary confinement, but he still receives visits from lawyers and is able to get messages out to his supporters.
“The calamity that has befallen our country has brought all normal, honest people closer together, and it’s not surprising that a connection appears between them,” Mr. Navalny wrote in a post on Instagram on Saturday, thanking his supporters. “I can feel it.”
The Putin critics’ New Year’s messages are a counterprogramming of sorts to the traditional year-end speech from the president, who delivered his address on New Year’s Eve surrounded by men and women in uniform. Mr. Putin vowed to continue his onslaught against Ukraine, asserting that “moral and historical righteousness is on our side.”
Ilya Yashin, an anti-Kremlin activist and politician who was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison in December for “spreading false information” about atrocities committed in the Ukrainian city of Bucha by Russian troops, wrote on Friday that he had been transferred to a jail in Izhevsk, a city 600 miles east of Moscow.
“I’m OK, friends,” Mr. Yashin wrote. “I want to remind you that the criminal war against Ukraine must be stopped, that Putin must go, and that Russia must be free and happy.” He added his address in jail to the message, reminding his supporters that they could write to him through the Russian penitentiary system’s online service.
Mediazona, an independent Russian news outlet, published an article on Saturday collecting New Year’s greetings from political prisoners. Aleksei Gorinov, a Moscow lawmaker sentenced in July to seven years in prison for denouncing the war, wrote that he remained “an optimist who believes in man” because “in Russia there is no other way to live,” and wished for an end “to this useless, crazy war.”
Vladimir Kara-Murza, an activist and journalist under investigation for treason, also struck an optimistic note, though he faces as long as 20 years in prison. “The past year became one of the darkest in the memory of living generations,” Mr. Kara-Murza wrote. “But the dawn comes after even the darkest night — and it will definitely come.”