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Top opposition leader Alexei Navalny was sentenced to nine more years on top of the one he is currently serving for fraud and contempt of court by a Russian court on Tuesday. The move was seen as President Putin’s attempt to put his most prominent political rival behind bars for as long as possible.
Navalny was arrested when he returned to Russia in January 2021, which triggered the biggest protests seen in the country. The following month, a Moscow court ordered his imprisonment for violating the terms of his parole on a conviction of embezzlement in 2014. The new sentence came after a year of Putin’s sweeping crackdown on Navalny’s supporters, independent journalists, and other opposition activists to suppress all protests.
After Navalny’s imprisonment, his close associates faced multiple criminal charges, left the country, and his nationwide Foundation for Fighting Corruption network of 40 regional offices were named outlawed extremist organizations and destroyed.
In 2020, 45-year-old Navalny survived nerve agent Novichok poisoning while on a domestic flight and had already served two and a half years in a penal colony for a parole violation in the east of Moscow. His new trial was held at the facility prison in a makeshift courtroom, hours away from Moscow.
Shortly after his sentence, Navalny said on a Facebook post by his team:
My space flight is taking a bit longer than expected.
He added that he and his comrades would not wait to announce that his Anti-Corruption Foundation will evolve into an international institution that will fight Putin until they win.
His new conviction was on charges of embezzling money his foundation raised and insulting a judge during a previous trial. But, he rejected the allegations as politically motivated and will appeal to the ruling.
The U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price condemned the court’s ruling as a series of attempts to silence Navalny and other independent voices and opposition figures.
German Foreign Ministry denounced the verdict and called the ruling:
Part of the systematic instrumentalization of the Russian judicial system against dissidents and the political opposition.
The court’s decree on Tuesday was to move Navalny from a prison camp near Moscow to a high-security prison further away. Prosecutors initially asked for a 13-year sentence for the anti-corruption crusader, and the judge imposed a 1.2 million rubles fine (about $11,500).
Leonid Volkov, Navalny’s longtime strategist, and closest ally tweeted Tuesday from abroad that reads:
Putin plans and has been planning a lot of things: to make Russia one of the top-five world economies, to take over Kyiv in 96 hours, to kill Navalny with Novichok. His plans have always failed. So will these nine years.
Written by Janet Grace Ortigas
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
The Hill: Navalny urges supporters not to be ‘idle’ after sentencing; by Cameron Jenkins
CBS News: Jailed Putin foe Navalny convicted of new fraud charges, adding 9 years to his prison term
CNBC: Putin critic Alexei Navalny sentenced to 9 years in prison by Russian court
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Prachatai’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Ninara’s Flickr Page – Public Domain License