Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper) Prominent Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny was found guilty of fraud today and sentenced to nine years in prison, to be served in parallel with his current two-and-a-half-year sentence.
A vocal Kremlin critic, Navalny was incarcerated upon his return to Russia from Germany in February last year, having been treated for suspected poisoning by a nerve agent that western countries believed had been administered to him by Russian intelligence services.
He was found guilty of violating the terms of his suspended sentence for an embezzlement case, which the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) subsequently dismissed as having been “politically motivated”. Even though Russia’s President Vladimir Putin personally okayed Navalny’s transfer to Germany for treatment, he was sent to a high-security prison for failing to report to Moscow prison authorities each month.
Today, Judge Margarita Kotova found Navalny guilty of “committing fraud – the theft of property by an organised group”, sentencing the opposition activist to nine years in maximum security prison and imposing a fine of 1.2 million rubles. Prosecutors had accused Navalny of using millions of dollars donated to his anti-graft and political organisations for his own personal benefit.
Today’s sentence stipulates that he is to be placed in a “strict-regime” penal colony, where he will face much harsher conditions than those he has been subject to in the past year.
Navalny’s latest sentence comes as Moscow clamps down strenuously on all opposition and critical voices within the country, forcing the last vestiges of independent media to close down or operate from abroad under threat of jail time for publishing “disinformation” about what it terms “the special military operation” in Ukraine.
After the verdict was announced, Navalny urged his supporters to show their opposition to the current regime in the Kremlin. “The best support for me and other political prisoners, is not sympathy and kind words, but actions”, a statement published by Navalny’s team on his Twitter profile declared. It went on to suggest that such actions should be directed “against the deceitful and thievish Putin’s regime”, as a proclamation of “opposition to these war criminals.”