Russian dissident Alexei Navalny was sentenced to three and a half years in a penal colony after a Moscow court found him guilty of disobeying the terms of his probation over the 2014 money laundering case. In the Tuesday ruling, however, the court also took into account the time Navalny had spent under house arrest, meaning that the Kremlin critic would spend only two years and eight months behind bars.
The ruling on Alexei Navalny comes after a tense hearing at a Moscow courthouse. Navalny rejected the claims of violating parole and slammed the process as an attempt to silence him.
During the hearing, Navalny said his trial was aimed at making people afraid. He blamed the charges against him on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
This is how it works — they imprison one man, as a means to intimidate millions of people, Navalny said.
The opposition leader labeled Putin as Vladimir, the underpants poisoner during the hearing. According to Navalny's research into his own poisoning, a hit squad deployed by the country's main intelligence agency FSB tried to kill him by putting a Novichok nerve agent on his underwear. Navalny fell ill after boarding a flight in Siberia. He was then hospitalized in Russia and eventually flown to Germany for treatment.
We have proven that Putin committed this attempted murder, he said on Tuesday. The Kremlin has denied the poisoning allegations from Navalny.
The government critic encouraged Russians to resist Putin’s government, saying the Kremlin has stolen the aspirations of the Russian people.
Lawlessness and arbitrariness are sometimes the essence of a political system. Yet it is even more dire when the lawlessness and arbitrariness are dressed up in prosecutor’s uniform and judge’s mantle. It is the duty of every human being to not subjugate themselves to these people, Navalny added.
Responding to the court's decision, several Western nations called for Navalny's release. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was “deeply concerned by Russia’s decision to sentence Navalny to prison and urged the Kremlin to release him unconditionally and immediately.
US' European allies also slammed the move. Today's verdict against Alexei Navalny is a bitter blow against fundamental freedoms and the rule of law in Russia, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said, adding that Navalny must be released immediately.
Today’s perverse ruling, targeting the victim of a poisoning rather than those responsible, shows Russia is failing to meet the most basic commitments expected of any responsible member of the international community,” UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said in a statement. He urged the Russian authorities to release not only Navalny, but all peaceful demonstrators and journalists that were arrested over the past two weeks.
Security forces were deployed in force outside the court building, where riot police were seen hauling protesters off. The OVD-Info monitoring group reported hundreds of people were detained.
Outside a nearby metro station large numbers of police mini vans awaited new detainees and police officers randomly searched people coming out of the metro.