Putin’s imprisoned enemy Navalny found guilty of new fraud charges, adding 9 years to his prison sentence

Moscow — Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was sentenced to a long prison term in addition to the one he is already serving. In a trial that Kremlin critics see as an attempt to keep President Vladimir Putin’s most ardent enemy behind bars for as long as possible, a Moscow court on Tuesday sentenced Navalny to nine years in one of the notorious penal colonies of Russia after convicting him of fraud. and contempt of court.

The prosecution accused Navalny, who is currently serving a 2.5-year sentence in a penal colony east of Moscow, of embezzling money he and his foundation have collected over the years and of insulting a judge during a previous trial. Navalny dismissed the allegations as politically motivated.

The court ruled on Tuesday that Navalny should be moved from a prison camp near Moscow to a high-security prison, likely further from Moscow. His team fears that this decision will make it even more difficult to monitor him.

“Without public protection, Alexey will be face to face with those who have tried to kill him before, and nothing will stop them from trying again,” his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said Tuesday. “Therefore, we are now talking not only about Alexey’s freedom, but also about his life.”

Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny attends hearing in Pokrov
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, charged with fraud and contempt of court, and his lawyers Olga Mikhailova and Vadim Kobzev are seen on a screen via video link during a hearing at a penal colony in the city of Pokrov in the Vladimir region, Russia, on March 22, 2022.

EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA / REUTERS


The prosecution had asked for 13 years in a maximum security prison for the anti-corruption crusader and a fine of 1.2 million rubles (about $10,700). The fine was imposed alongside the 9-year sentence on Tuesday. It was not immediately clear whether Navalny should serve the new sentence alongside his current one, or in addition.

The US State Department issued a statement condemning what it called Navalny’s “politically motivated condemnation and condemnation” of “false accusations”.

“This outlandish prison sentence is a continuation of the Kremlin’s years-long assault on Navalny and his movement for government transparency and accountability. Of course, Navalny’s real crime in the eyes of the Kremlin is his work as a as anti-corruption activist and opposition politician,” the State Department said.

The trial, which opened about a month ago, took place in a makeshift courtroom in the penal colony a few hours from Moscow, where Navalny is serving a sentence for a parole violation. Navalny’s supporters criticized authorities’ decision to move the proceedings there from a Moscow courthouse, saying it effectively limited access to the proceedings for media and supporters.

Navalny, 45, appeared at hearings in prisoner attire and gave several elaborate speeches during the trial, denouncing the charges against him as false.

Navalny was arrested in January 2021 immediately after returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from poisoning he blamed on the Kremlin, a claim Russian officials have vehemently denied. Shortly after the arrest, a court sentenced him to 2½ years in prison for violating parole stemming from a 2014 suspended sentence in a fraud case that Navalny said was motivated by political considerations.


Visibly emaciated Alexei Navalny makes his first public appearance since his hunger strike

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After Navalny’s imprisonment, authorities unleashed a broad crackdown on his associates and supporters. Its closest allies have left Russia after facing multiple criminal charges, and its Anti-Corruption Foundation and a network of nearly 40 regional offices have been declared extremists – a designation that exposes those involved to lawsuits.

Last month, Russian officials added Navalny and a number of his associates to a national register of extremists and terrorists.

Several criminal cases have been launched against Navalny individually, leading his associates to suggest the Kremlin intends to keep him behind bars for as long as possible.

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