Aleksei Navalny was found guilty of fraud by a Russian court
A Russian court sentenced opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny to nine years in a high-security prison on Tuesday and ordered him to pay a fine of about $11,500.
The trial was held in a makeshift courtroom in a Moscow suburban prison, where Mr. Navalny has been held for more than a year.
“Navalny committed fraud, i.e. stealing another’s property through fraud and breach of trust,” judge Margarita Kotova said as she read her sentence, according to Interfax news agency.
Prosecutors allege that Mr Navalny and his former Anti-Corruption Foundation – whose extremist activity Russian authorities banned last year – embezzled public donations.
The ruling, however, is widely seen as a move by the Kremlin to keep Mr Navalny behind bars when he expires in 2023 during his current two-and-a-half-year prison term. ostensibly for violating the terms of his pardon.
For President Vladimir V. Putin, the war against Ukraine has made the fiery opposition leader even more responsible. Mr. Navalny appealed to the Russians, through letters from the prison that his lawyers posted on social media, to protest against the invasion.
“It is everyone’s duty to fight this war,” Mr. Navalny said in a courtroom address last week. The war, he said, was started by “a bunch of crazy old men who don’t understand and don’t want to understand anything”.
Even while Mr. Navalny goes to jail, his aides outside Russia have called out to oppose the war and continue to publish their trademark corruption investigations on YouTube. On Monday, the group released One video that offers evidence that Putin is stashing a $700 million yacht at a pier in Italy.
Another video During Navalny’s trial last week, Judge Kotova received multiple phone calls from a number that researchers traced to the head of the presidential palace’s public relations department, the group said.
Ivan Zhdanov, the head of Navalny’s organization, said in the video: “The incident was completely fabricated by specific people. “This ruling is being written by Putin officials.”
Judge Kotova has not yet commented on the charges, but she was promoted to a more senior judicial position last week, state news agency RIA Novosti reported.
Navalny’s supporters sometimes say the exact length of his prison term is of little importance, because they expect Putin’s system to collapse in the coming years.
But for now, Mr. Putin has the upper hand. The Kremlin has forced a network of Mr. Navalny’s supporters into exile and, in recent weeks, has blocked access to Instagram and Facebookand further breaks in the independent media – making communication with the Russian public more difficult than ever for Mr. Navalny.
There is substantial evidence that the Russian government is responsible for The poisoning that nearly killed Mr Navalny in August 2020, And with the world’s attention on Ukraine, Navalny’s supporters fear his life is in danger again.
The latest ruling could allow Russian authorities to move Mr Navalny to a higher-security prison far from Moscow, making it harder for his lawyers and family to visit him.
“Without the protection of the public, Aleksei would have to face those who tried to kill him,” said his spokesman, Kira Yarmysh, posted on Twitter in Monday. “And nothing will stop them from trying again. Therefore, now we are not only talking about Aleksei’s freedom but also about his life”.