Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has lost his appeal against a new nine-year prison sentence and will be transferred to a high-security prison in a move that his supporters say is aimed at isolating president Vladimir Putin's top critic even further.
Mr Navalny (45) who was already serving a 2½-year-sentence that the European Court of Human Rights called politically motivated, was convicted in March of fraud and contempt of court. He denies all the charges against him and says they were fabricated to thwart his political ambitions. Mr Navalny is currently being held in a jail about 100km from the Russian capital. He was due to have been set free next year.
Mr Navalny used his address to a Moscow court to deliver a stinging attack on Mr Putin and the war in Ukraine – a rare public act of dissent in a country where it is a criminal offence to criticise the army.
He lambasted president Mr Putin as a doomed madman who started a "stupid war" that was butchering the innocent people of both Ukraine and Russia.
Castigating Mr Putin’s Russia as a state run by thieves and criminals, Mr Navalny said the current leaders of Russia would ultimately be crushed by the forces of history and burn in hell for creating a bloodbath in Ukraine.
“This is a stupid war which your Putin started,” Mr Navalny (45) told an appeal court in Moscow via video link. “This war was built on lies.”
“One madman has got his claws into Ukraine and I do not know what he wants to do with it – this crazy thief,” Mr Navalny said of Mr Putin.
The judge repeatedly interrupted Mr Navalny.
Allegations of corruption
A former lawyer who rose to prominence more than a decade ago by lampooning Mr Putin’s elite and voicing allegations of corruption on a vast scale, Mr Navalny has long forecast Russia could face seismic political turmoil through revolt.
He earned admiration from the disparate Russian opposition for voluntarily returning to Russia in 2021 from Germany where he underwent treatment for what western laboratory tests showed was an attempt to poison him with a nerve agent in Siberia.
On his return he was jailed. Russia denies Mr Navalny’s claims that Russia’s secret police poisoned him with Novichok.
Mr Navalny cast the prosecution’s “facts” as “lies” – and compared them to the lies he said Mr Putin had used to begin the February 24th invasion of Ukraine.
“What do you want to achieve – do you want short-term control, to fight with future generations, to fight for the future of Russia?” Mr Navalny asked the court. “You will all suffer historic defeat.”
“Your time will pass,” Mr Navalny said. “When you will all be burning in hell, your grandfathers will be adding wood to your fires.”
The Kremlin has repeatedly dismissed Mr Navalny’s claims about Mr Putin, who it says has won numerous fair elections in Russia since 2000 and remains by far the country’s most popular politician. It has dismissed Mr Navalny’s claim that Mr Putin is corrupt as nonsense. – Reuters