A Russian court on Tuesday sentenced jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny to nine years in a high-security prison, according to Interfax, in a ruling that will keep President Vladimir Putin’s top critic sidelined amid a harsh crackdown on the opposition.
Navalny, who is currently serving a two-and-a-half year sentence that the European Court of Human Rights called politically motivated, dismissed the legitimacy of the proceedings and used his appearances during the trial to denounce Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which has plunged Russia into economic crisis and international isolation.
“It’s the duty of every person now to oppose this war,” Navalny told the court in his final statement. The attack on Ukraine will result in “our country’s collapse and disintegration,” he said.
The conviction comes amid an increasingly hard line against dissent since the start of the war a month ago, with Putin labeling those opposed to the invasion as “traitors.” This week Russia banned Facebook and Instagram as “extremist” and the authorities have blocked or shut down independent media in order to control access to information.
Navalny, who was set to be released next year, could now be transfered to a more remote penal colony that will make it harder for him to maintain contact with supporters, his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said on Twitter Monday.
Judge Margarita Kotova of Moscow’s Lefortovo court read the sentence that found Navalny guilty of fraud and contempt, Interfax reported from the trial. Prosecutors had sought 13 years in prison.
Navalny stood trial in his prison about 60 miles from Moscow due to what the authorities said were COVID-19 restrictions, but has until now been able to post on social media via his lawyers.
Navalny, 45, has been in detention since January 2021, when he returned to Russia after recovering abroad from a near-fatal attack involving a nerve-agent that he and Western governments blamed on Putin’s secret services. The Kremlin denies any involvement in the assassination attempt in Siberia.
Putin has been in power since 2000, the longest rule since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, and has become increasingly intolerant of dissent. Last year, after spearheading amendments to the constitution, he signed a law that could potentially keep him in office until 2036.
Russian authorities have accused Navalny of acting as a Western agent and banned his organizations as extremist after his detention, prompting most of his key aides to flee the country to avoid arrest.
Navalny’s supporters and human rights defenders have accused Putin of being behind the push to keep him silent. Amnesty International denounced the case as a “sham trial.”
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