Alexei Navalny sentenced to nine years in prison on appeal

No release for the main opponent of Vladimir Putin. Russian justice on Tuesday confirmed on appeal the nine-year prison sentence in “severe regime” of Alexeï Navalny, tried for “fraud” and “contempt of court”. “The verdict of the Lefortovo court of March 22 is unchanged,” said a judge of the Moscow City Court, indicating that it came “into effect immediately”.

At first instance, on March 22, the charismatic anti-corruption activist, who was already serving a sentence in a so-called “normal regime” colony, was sentenced to nine years in prison in a “severe” regime, where the conditions of detention are harsher. He was accused in particular of having embezzled millions of rubles in donations to his anti-corruption organizations.

“I despise your court”

This sentence includes that pronounced in March 2021 for “fraud”, in a case dating back to 2014 and involving the French company Yves Rocher. The opponent’s lawyers immediately indicated that they would appeal against this judgment.

Alexei Navalny appeared by videoconference from the colony of Pokrov, 100 km from Moscow, where he was serving his first sentence. Locked in a cage, he listened to the verdict carefully and sullenly. Called to speak before the closing of the proceedings, the opponent did not mince his words, despite several calls to order from the court. “I despise your court, your system,” he said, saying that this trial had “no sense”.

Fear, “a crime against our future”

“Of course I don’t want to be in the cell,” he said. “I would rather see my children grow up. But I call on people not to be afraid, to be afraid is a crime against our future,” he continued. Alexei Navalny was arrested in January 2021 on his return from Berlin, where he had spent several months recovering from poisoning, for which he holds Russian President Vladimir Putin responsible.

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The latter categorically denies and no investigation has been opened. This arrest marked the starting point for the acceleration of a broad crackdown on all anti-Kremlin movements and independent media in Russia. This has increased further since February 24 and Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch a military offensive against Ukraine.

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