New York Rangers forward Artemiy Panarin took to Instagram this morning to show support for Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, posting a picture of Navalny and his family with the hashtag translating to “Free Navalny”.
This is pretty significant: New York Rangers superstar forward Artemi Panarin showing support for jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny ahead of planned Saturday protests all over Russia. Hashtags this Instagram post “Freedom for Navalny” https://t.co/9rwcP87oKK pic.twitter.com/8zZyjEjOeO— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) January 21, 2021
For those who don’t know, Alexei Navalny is an outspoken opponent to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and was poisoned with a nerve agent back in August on a flight. Navalny recovered from this attack, and alleged that it was carried out by the Russian president.
On his YouTube channel, Navalny called for the Russian people to take to the streets and protest against the ruling party in Russia, and Panarin showed his support for this movement on his Instagram page. Navalny recently flew back to Moscow from Germany, and was led away by police at passport control according to the BBC.
It is not the first time the Russian winger used his voice and platform to speak out against the Russian leadership, a rather rare act among Russian athletes. He did so as recently as July of 2019, with an pre-recorded interview going live weeks after signing with the New York Rangers.
After Panarin made comments on Putin in July of 2019, Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, a prominent supporter of Putin, responded saying: “I don’t know. Maybe nothing has changed since the 90s where he lives. My life has changed, a lot has changed in sports in the country.” It will be interesting to see if Ovechkin once again responds to Panarin’s opposition of Putin.