One day we will all need them. The day when the failure of the aggression against Ukraine raises the question of a successor in the Kremlin, Alexei Navalny and Vladimir Kara-Mourza will be as indispensable to Russia, Europe and the world as Nelson Mandela was to his country when apartheid ended.

They will be essential because so many men who could have embodied post-Putin Russia have been assassinated or crushed that only they remain. Known or still unknown, others will of course emerge. In exile or in Russia itself, Ilia Yashin in the first place, many are already making a name for themselves but, for the moment, no one else has the experience and notoriety that Alexei Navalny and Vladimir Kara-Mourza have acquired in some fifteen years of rallying the opposition, defending the law and denouncing corruption.

One day, we will all need them because the Russian Federation is now threatened, in the short or medium term, with fragmentation and chaos and that at the first cracks, men of their strength will be needed to make the voice of Reason heard and preserve the stability of Europe and the world by preserving that of Russia.

We will all need them because if civil wars were to tear apart a country with the world’s second largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, such long borders with China and the European Union, and such close proximity to Iran, Central Asia and Turkey, these wars would quickly spread to the rest of the planet.

So it is not only because their bravery and determination are admirable that Alexei Navalny and Vladimir Kara-Mourza must be saved. It has to be avoided that the lack of care, systematic isolation and ill-treatment cause them to die in prison because neither Russia nor the world can do without them and the violence with which the despot in the Kremlin is lashing out at them speaks volumes about his fear that Russians will reject him and resume their march towards freedom.

These are the three reasons why Timothy Garton-Ash, a specialist in contemporary Europe at Oxford, Ezio Mauro of La Repubblica, Adam Michnik, founder of Gazeta Wyborcza, and myself, a journalist and Member of the European Parliament, have just launched an appeal to statesmen and all democrats, artists, trade unions, churches and intellectuals in several European newspapers. Collectively or individually, let us write, face to face or on the websites of Russian embassies or the Kremlin, each of you must urgently tell Vladimir Putin: “No, Mr. President, you must no longer be relentless against Alexei Navalny and Vladimir Kara-Mourza. You must give up wanting them dead, make sure they live and give them their freedom.”

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