On Thursday, July 20, 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin has paid a visit to Lyudmila Alekseyeva to congratulate the veteran activist on her 90th birthday and thank her for her long-term service to the nation.
Lyudmila Mikhailovna Alexeyeva is a Russian historian, leading human rights activist, co-founder of the Moscow Helsinki Watch Group, and one of the last Soviet dissidents still active in modern Russia.
As a present, Putin gave Alekseyeva an etching depicting a view of the activist’s native city of Eupatoria, emphasizing that she had done “the most important thing” throughout her life:
“Solzhenitsyn called this ‘preserving the people,’ he did this in his own way, and you do it in yours.”
The birthday girl was surprised by the president’s visit:
“I am very excited and grateful. This is because when I was starting this work I only thought about how long my future sentence would be – seven years for public calls for the removal of the constitutional state order or three years for slandering the Soviet regime. I never imagined that the president would personally congratulate me.”
Alekseyeva used the opportunity to asked Putin to pardon Igor Izmestyev – a former senator from the southern Russian region of Bashkiriya, who is currently serving a life sentence after a court convicted him in 2010 of heading a criminal mob and of organizing several contract hits and terrorist attacks:
“This is not a present, this is simply a thing to do. Do a good thing, pardon Izmestyev, simply as a Christian. Because a pardon is not an act of justice, it’s an act of mercy.”
Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov confirmed that the president had promised to fulfill Alekseyeva’s plea, however, the procedure could possibly take some time.