Russian Oscar Nominee Criticizes Vladimir Putin, Supports Opposition Leader

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Andrei Zvyagintsev

Director Andrey Zvyagintsev is known for Oscar-nominated 'Leviathan' and 'Loveless,' Russia's current entry in the foreign-language Oscar race.

Russian Oscar-nominated and Golden Globe-winning director Andrey Zvyagintsev has released a video, in which he expresses support for imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny and criticizes president Vladimir Putin for what he argues is an organized campaign against Navalny.

"The president of the Russian Federation, just like any president of any country, is the guarantor of the life and dignity of his citizens," Zvyagintsev said in the video published on the Navalny campaign's website. "What dignity can we talk about if we are offered to choose from one [presidential candidate]?"

Continued the director: "There is no human dignity when the opponent is being persecuted in such an arbitrary, stupid and ugly way." And he added that he was "disgusted to observe this spectacle."

Navalny, a 41-year-old lawyer and anti-corruption campaigner, is Russia's most popular opposition politician. He vowed to run for president this coming March, even though authorities say he cannot do so because of a criminal conviction, which many observers believe was politically motivated. Navalny is currently serving a 20-day prison sentence for "running an illegal campaign."

This past Saturday, thousands of Russians responded to Navalny's call to come to a series of rallies and demonstrations in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ekaterinburg and other Russian cities on the day when Putin's 65th birthday was celebrated. Police arrested more than 250 people.

Putin has not yet announced whether he will run for reelection next year, but most observers are sure that he will.

Zvyagintsev's films have been critical of contemporary Russia, and 2014's Leviathan caused a backlash from state officials. Leviathan won a Golden Globe and a foreign-language Oscar nomination in 2015. Zvyagintsev's most recent film, Loveless, which won the jury's special prize at the Cannes film festival this year, is Russia's selection for the foreign-language Oscar, which will be handed out next year.