Putin critic Alexei Navalny has 19 years added to jail term, West condemns Russia
Putin critic Alexei Navalny has 19 years added to jail term, West condemns Russia
Putin critic Alexei Navalny has 19 years added to jail term, West condemns Russia
by DZRH News08 August 2023
FILE PHOTO: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is seen on a screen via a video link from the IK-2 corrective penal colony in Pokrov during a court hearing to consider an appeal against his prison sentence in Moscow, Russia May 24, 2022. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/File Photo

By Tatiana Gomozova and Andrew Osborn

MELEKHOVO, Russia (Reuters) -Jailed Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny had an extra 19 years in a maximum security penal colony added to his jail term on Friday in a criminal case that he said was designed to cow the Russian people into political submission.

Navalny, President Vladimir Putin's fiercest domestic critic, is already serving sentences totalling 11-1/2 years on fraud and other charges that he says are also bogus. His political movement has been outlawed and declared "extremist".

A court at his IK-6 penal colony in Melekhovo, about 235 km (145 miles) east of Moscow, on Friday brought to a close his trial on six charges, including inciting and financing extremist activity and creating an extremist organisation.


Unconfirmed Russian media reports said that Navalny, now 47, would be 74 years old by the time he got out of prison in 2050.

Navalny said in a statement on social media released via his lawyers and supporters that he was facing a life sentence behind bars unless the current authorities fell first.

"Nineteen years in a maximum security penal colony. The number does not matter. I understand perfectly well that, like many political prisoners, I am serving a life sentence. Where the life sentence is measured by the length of my life or the length of the life of this regime," said Navalny.

"The sentencing number is not for me. It's for you. You, not me, are being frightened and deprived of the will to resist. You are being forced to surrender your Russia without a fight to the gang of traitors, thieves and scoundrels who have seized power. Putin must not achieve his goal. Do not lose the will to resist."


State prosecutors had asked for 20 years.

The charges relate to his role in his now-defunct movement inside Russia, which the authorities accused of trying to foment a revolution by seeking to destabilise the socio-political situation.

The U.S. State Department called the verdict "an unjust conclusion to an unjust trial", while the European Union condemned what it called another politically motivated ruling and called for Navalny's immediate release.

Russia's embassy in Washington denounced the State Department comments as interference in Moscow's internal affairs.


"This is trying to influence the work of the Russian Federation's independent judicial system," the embassy wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

"With this belligerent reaction, the U.S. authorities practically confirm the correct nature of the verdict... It is to the administration's advantage to take 'into its orbit' for the sake of jolting the situation in our country."

A small group of Navalny supporters had gathered outside the penal colony but were not let in to hear the verdict.

The audio feed from the court, where the trial had been held behind closed doors in the prison's sports hall, was so poor that it was practically impossible to make out what the judge, Andrei Suvorov, was saying.


Journalists were not let into the courtroom but able to watch proceedings on CCTV.

Dressed in dark prison uniform and flanked by his lawyers, Navalny smiled occasionally as he listened to the judge.

The former blogger, lawyer and corruption investigator has cast himself as a political martyr whose aim is to demonstrate to Russians that it is possible to resist Putin, albeit at great cost.

"For a new, free, rich country to be born, it must have parents. Those who want it. Who expect it and who are willing to make sacrifices for its birth," Navalny said in his closing statement last month.


Daniel Kholodny, a TV technician who worked for Navalny and who was sentenced at the same time, was given eight years in jail.


Putin, 70 and in power since 1999, is expected to run for another six-year presidential term in 2024. With Russia waging what he calls a "special military operation" in Ukraine and locked in what he describes as an existential battle with the West, Putin says it is vital for the country to remain united.

In February, Putin ordered the FSB security service to raise its game to "identify and stop the illegal activities of those who are trying to divide and weaken our society".


Navalny, who in the 2010s brought tens of thousands of people onto the streets to oppose Putin's rule, was detained in January 2021 after returning to Moscow from Germany, where he had been treated for what Western experts said was poisoning by a Soviet-era nerve agent.

The Kremlin, which at one point accused him of working with the CIA to undermine Russia, denied involvement and denies persecuting Navalny. It has portrayed him as an agent of disruption and says he never represented serious political competition, and that his case is purely a matter for the courts.

Navalny's supporters cast him as a Russian version of South Africa's Nelson Mandela, who will one day be freed from prison to govern the country.

Kira Yarmysh, Navalny's spokeswoman, told Reuters that he was cheerful and optimistic because he believed in his cause. She said he could now be transferred to another penal colony where he might face draconian conditions.


He was also facing another criminal case on terrorism charges, she said, which could further extend his sentence.

"Alexei is in prison for as long as Putin is in power," said Yarmysh. "Our main goal is to shorten the term."

(Reporting by Tatiana Gomozova and Andrew Osborn; Additional reporting by Mark Trevelyan, Paul Grant, Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Gareth Jones, Conor Humphries, Kevin Liffey and William Mallard)

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