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Prominent Putin critic Alexey Navalny sentenced to additional nine years

Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(LONDON) — The jailed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has been sentenced to an additional nine years, in a fresh trial roundly criticized by human rights organizations as politically motivated.

Navalny is already imprisoned on a two-and-a-half-year sentence, incarcerated since he was immediately arrested on his return to Russia following treatment in Germany in January of last year, after being poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent in August 2020.

Prosecutors sought a new 10-year sentence on fresh charges of embezzlement and contempt of court that were announced in February, granted by the court, which means Navalny will remain incarcerated until President Vladimir Putin is entering his 80s.

The charges, which are widely viewed as politically motivated, accuse Navalny of embezzling donations from his Anti-Corruption Foundation, the organization that produces his high-profile investigations into the alleged ill-gotten gains of Putin and his elite.

Navalny was made to stand for hours as the judge detailed the new convictions, with the opposition activist cutting a noticeably thinner figure after his time in jail alongside his lawyers. Last year, Navalny’s team said he was “fighting for his life” after he fell ill in prison after a protracted hunger strike.

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The dissident’s political organizations were formally designated as “extremist,” placing them alongside groups such as ISIS in Russia, meaning that anyone publicly supporting Navalny could face prison sentences and be barred from running in elections.

Navalny is often labelled as one of Putin’s most difficult domestic critics. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, his official social media accounts have posted regular messages criticizing the war and calling on Russians to stage weekly protests against the invasion.

As Navalny’s legal team was handed down the new sentence, his organization posted a new investigation that alleged a huge super-yacht under construction in Italy belongs to Putin and should be seized as Western countries clamp down on assets linked to the Russian state.

The new sentencing of Russia’s most prominent pro-democracy activist comes as the Kremlin is drastically clamping down on civil society organizations and the free press in the country following its invasion of Ukraine. On Monday, Facebook and Instagram were also formally designated as “extremist” groups as the Kremlin sought to control the narrative around the war.

Putin has issued repeated warnings against pro-Western “traitors” and “scum” seeking to bring about “the destruction of Russia.”

“Putin is intensifying his actions to destroy Russia and is essentially announcing the start of mass repressions against those who don’t agree with the regime,” he posted on Twitter. “This has happened in our history before, and not only ours.”

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