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In Vienna, 2 portraits of Alexei Navalny are painted near a monument to Soviet soldiers

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Mar 27, 2024

VIENNA (AP) — Two large portraits of the late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny have been spray-painted on a property owned by the family of a former Czech foreign minister behind a monument to Soviet soldiers in Vienna.

The portraits were completed Wednesday on the wall behind the monument, which was already painted in Ukraine’s blue and yellow national colors after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. The wall belongs to the Palais Schwarzenberg, owned by the noble family of former Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who died in November.

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The monument portraying a Soviet soldier was built after Soviet troops took Vienna in 1945. Austria, which was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938, was divided into occupation zones until the country was granted full sovereignty in 1955.

“The monument commemorates victims of dictatorship and Mr. Navalny is an obvious victim of dictatorship,” Maximillian Schaffgotsch of the Schwarzenberg family foundation told the Austria Press Agency.

Navalny, who crusaded against official corruption in Russia and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests as President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest foe, died Feb. 16 in the Arctic penal colony where he was serving a 19-year sentence. Officials have said only that he died of natural causes.

Austrian graffiti duo Joel Gamnou painted the portraits. Jonathan Gamperl, one half of the duo, said that “so far we have only gotten positive feedback.”

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KSORS, a group described by Austrian media as being close to the Russian Embassy, complained in a Facebook post that the wall behind the monument to Soviet soldiers is being “misused for political purposes.”

An improvised memorial to Navalny opposite the embassy has been removed twice in the last two weeks. Vienna prosecutors are considering whether to open an investigation into those incidents, APA reported.

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