‘Navalny’ Wins Oscar for Best Documentary and His Wife Issues Message of Defiance

“Navalny,” a film that followed the imprisoned Russian dissident Aleksei A. Navalny as he investigated his own near-fatal poisoning in 2020, won the Oscar for best documentary feature on Sunday, with Mr. Navalny’s wife and daughter appearing onstage to deliver a message of defiance.

Accepting the award, the Canadian filmmaker Daniel Roher spoke out against President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, and said he was there “because Aleksei Navalny right now is languishing in a gulag six and a half hours outside of Moscow, and I want to remind the world that he is there.”

He then handed the microphone to Mr. Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya.

“My husband is in prison just for telling the truth,” she said. “My husband is in prison just for defending democracy.”

Ms. Navalnaya continued, directly addressing Mr. Navalny: “I am dreaming of the day when you will be free and our country will be free. Stay strong, my love.”

The focus on Mr. Navalny came during Hollywood’s most high-profile annual event, with last year’s telecast attracting 15.4 million viewers. The other family member to appear at the awards ceremony, Mr. Navalny’s 21-year-old daughter, Dasha Navalnaya, told the Times columnist Nicholas Kristof in February that she saw the documentary as a “‘get out of death’ card,” in that international attention to his plight would reduce the risk of him being killed in prison.

The documentary, which was an NYT Critic’s Pick, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2022. That February, Mr. Putin began his full-scale invasion of Ukraine. In March, a Russian court sentenced Mr. Navalny to nine years in a high-security prison on charges of embezzling donations from supporters; he had already been in prison on separate charges of violating the terms of his parole from a 2014 embezzlement conviction. Europe’s top human rights court ruled that his numerous arrests between 2012 and 2014 were politically motivated.

Both sentences were internationally seen as efforts to keep the opposition leader and one of Mr. Putin’s most prominent critics, one who had been seen as an international symbol of resistance to Mr. Putin, behind bars.

Mr. Navalny said in November that he had been transferred permanently to solitary confinement, limiting his interaction with the outside world.

In the film “Navalny,” the dissident extracted a recorded confession from a man he had suspected was involved in the August 2020 poisoning. White House officials said American intelligence agencies concluded that Russian security police agents poisoned Mr. Navalny. There is substantial evidence that the Kremlin was responsible for the attack.

Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, said Monday that awarding the Oscar to “Navalny” showed “an element of politicization,” according to Russia’s state news agency, Tass. Mr. Peskov said he had not seen the film.