Bono Leads U2 Fans in Chanting Alexei Navalny’s Name at Sphere Show

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation
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U2’s Bono paid tribute to the late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny during a Saturday night show, leading the crowd at the Sphere in chanting the anti-corruption activist’s name.

Ahead of launching into a rendition of Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” a cover the band has performed frequently during its Las Vegas residency, Bono pointed out to the audience that next week marks the two-year anniversary of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Next it’ll be Poland, next it’ll be Lithuania, East Germany—who knows where this man will or won’t go,” Bono said, according to footage of the concert.

“To these people freedom is not just a word in a song. For these people, freedom is the most important word in the world—so important that Ukrainians are fighting and dying for it. And it’s so important that Alexei Navalny chose to give his up,” he added.

Navalny, one of Putin’s fiercest critics, died at a remote Arctic penal colony on Friday. He was 47 years old. He was arrested in 2021 after returning to Russia from Germany, where he had been recovering from chemical nerve agent poisoning, believed to have been an assassination attempt by Russian security forces. He was repeatedly sentenced to prison on criminal charges internationally viewed as trumped-up and politically motivated, most recently in Aug. 2023, when he was given a 19-year term.

“Apparently Putin would never, ever say his name. So I thought tonight, the free people, from here, people who believe in freedom—we must say his name. Not just remember it, but say it,” Bono continued.

He then got the audience to chant “Alexei Navalny” over the opening acoustic strains of “Don’t Dream It’s Over.”

Putin reportedly avoided speaking Navalny’s name during his lifetime, preferring to refer to him euphemistically as “that character,” “this gentleman,” “the aforementioned citizen,” and, when brought up by others, one of “the figures you mentioned.”

Whether superstition or symbolic choice, Navalny delighted in Putin’s refusal to name him. “I’m like Lord Voldemort,” he told a reporter in 2018, according to Al Jazeera.

Alexei Navalny’s Widow Shares Tribute, as Russians Are Arrested at Rallies

Navalny was held in solitary confinement and repeatedly fell ill during his incarceration, sparking fears for his wellbeing that spiked in December, when he disappeared for several weeks amid a transfer to the so-called “Polar Wolf” penal colony, prison FGU IK-3.

No cause of death has been specified by Russian authorities, who said that Navalny collapsed after taking a walk on Friday morning. His spokesperson said a day later that his mother had officially been notified of his death, and that his remains had been moved to a nearby town for further examination and investigation.

Navalny’s mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, traveled to the town but was barred from reclaiming his remains, the spokesperson said. His team, who are largely in exile, have demanded his body be released to his family for burial.

News of Navalny’s death roiled the world. In Russia, mourners risked arrest over the weekend as they attempted to honor his life, with more than 350 people arrested at impromptu rallies and vigils, according to watchdog group OVD-Info.

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