Russia Leading opposition figure, Alexei NavalnyHe was sentenced to nine more years in prison for fraud and contempt of court, in a case his supporters say was directed against him on the orders of the president.
The new ruling comes as Russian authorities seek to quell any dissent against Mr Putin war against ukrainethat stumbled in the face of stiff Ukrainian resistance. Russian authorities have More than 15,000 people were arrested At anti-war rallies since the invasion began on February 24, according to the independent organization OVD-Info that monitors arrests at the protests. They also passed a law earlier this month that imposes a sentence of up to 15 years in prison for anyone who criticizes the Russian military or refers to its attack as an invasion or war.
Mr Navalny, who has called from behind bars for his supporters to protest the war, was already serving a prison sentence that began in February last year, for violating a parole related to a previous conviction for fraud that he and his supporters say was politically motivated. .
A judge ruled on Tuesday that Mr Navalny stole donations from the Anti-Corruption Foundation, a nonprofit he founded that worked to investigate official corruption in Russia before it was banned as an “extremist” organization last year, according to a video stream from a courtroom in his criminal colony 85 km away. miles east of Moscow. According to prosecutors, Mr. Navalny stole 350 million rubles, approximately $3.4 million, from the foundation. The opposition politician denied the accusations.
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Russian security forces arrested Mr Navalny upon his return to Russia in January 2021, after he spent five months recovering in Germany from a poisoning attack. German scientists said they used Novichok, a nerve agent from the Soviet era. Mr. Navalny accuses Mr. Putin of ordering an attack, an allegation the Kremlin has repeatedly denied. The Kremlin has also denied targeting Navalny for criticizing Mr. Putin.
“There is no doubt that the decision to arrest Navalny was made personally by Putin,” said Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmush, from Vilnius, Lithuania, where many of his aides are now based. “At first he tried to kill Alexei, and when he failed, he decided to keep him in prison forever.”
Navalny, 45, was also fined 1.2 million rubles on Tuesday.
The US State Department described the ruling as “another example of the Russian government’s widening campaign against dissent and free speech, aimed at disguising the Kremlin’s brutal – and gratuitous – war against Ukraine”.
Mr Putin’s most prominent critic, who appeared emaciated in court inside his high-security prison, was defiant after the verdict.
9 years. Well, as the characters of my favorite TV series “The Wire” used to say: “You only do two days. This is the day you enter and the day you leave.”
The account, which his team is dealing with, was posted in reference to the popular HBO series. Mr. Navalny often transmits messages to his social media accounts through his legal team.
Mr. Navalny also urged his supporters to continue taking action “against Putin’s deceitful regime and thieves. Any opposition to these war criminals”.
Anti-war rallies, which gathered thousands of Russians across dozens of cities earlier this month, have waned in recent days, as Many Russians are leaving the country With the impact of sanctions, the authorities are launching a pressure campaign.
Since Mr. Putin launch his invasion In neighboring Ukraine, about two dozen independent Russian media organizations have been forced to shut down or choose to cease operations, while
Twitter and Instagram are banned in the country. Last week, investigators opened the first of three criminal cases against Ross for their criticism of the war.
State-backed polls show that about two-thirds of Russians Campaign support. A poll conducted by the independent Levada Center polling center earlier this month tracked those results. Experts caution against taking indications of Mr. Putin’s support at face value, but say the Russians support him broadly.
Tensions over Ukraine and the subsequent invasion overshadowed Navalny’s trial, which began on February 16. All sessions were held in his prison, which Mr Navalny’s supporters say is aimed at keeping his case out of the spotlight.
– William Mauldin contributed to this article.
write to Evan Gershkovich at [email protected]
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