Putin critic Alexei Navalny sentenced to 9 years in prison after being found guilty of fraud

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has urged his supporters to show their opposition to the Russian government after a court sentenced him to nine years in prison on Tuesday for fraud and contempt.

Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critics, was also found in contempt of court and fined 1.2 million rubles (C$14,500).

He is already serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence in a prison camp east of Moscow for parole violations related to charges he says were fabricated to thwart his political ambitions.

It was not immediately clear if Navalny should serve the new nine-year sentence on top of the 2½ years, or where he would serve it.

After Navalny’s sentencing, his Twitter account responded with a quote from the TV series Thread and called on his supporters to take action against Putin’s regime.

“I mean: the best support for me and other political prisoners is not sympathy and kind words, but actions,” read part of a tweet thread. “Any activity against Putin’s deceitful and thieving regime. Any opposition to these war criminals.”

The wire also said Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, banned in Russia, would become a global organization and urged its supporters to join.

Plans to appeal

Judge Margarita Kotova, who confirmed that Navalny pleaded “not guilty” to the fraud charges, said he would remain subject to certain restrictions for 20 months after his release.

Prosecutors had sought to add 13 years to Navalny’s original sentence in the latest criminal case, in which he was accused of using 356 million rubles ($4.3 million CAD) in donations collected by his foundation to personal purposes.

Lawyer Olga Mikhailova said Navalny would appeal.

“Alexei is feeling great,” she said. “He was sure of his innocence. He asserted his innocence.”

Earlier on Tuesday, an emaciated Navalny stood next to his lawyers in a room full of prison security guards as the judge read the charges against him. The 45-year-old seemed unfazed, looking down as he leafed through court documents.

WATCH | Navalny appears in court:

Russian opposition leader Navalny gets 9 years in prison for fraud

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was found guilty of fraud and contempt of court and sentenced to nine years in a maximum security prison. 0:31

The trial, which began about a month ago, took place in a makeshift courtroom in the Pokrov penal colony, a few hours from Moscow, where Navalny is serving his sentence for a parole violation. .

Navalny’s supporters criticized authorities’ decision to move the proceedings there from a Moscow courthouse, saying it effectively limited access to the proceedings for media and supporters.

Poisoning in 2020

Navalny was jailed last year when he returned to Russia after receiving medical treatment in Germany following a poisoning attack with a Soviet-era nerve agent during a 2020 visit to Siberia. Navalny blamed Putin for the attack.

The Kremlin said it had seen no evidence Navalny had been poisoned and denied any Russian role if he was.

Russian authorities portrayed Navalny and his supporters as subversives bent on destabilizing Russia with Western backing. Many of Navalny’s allies have fled Russia rather than face restrictions or jail at home.

Navalny’s opposition movement has been described as “extremist” and closed, although his supporters continue to express their political position, including their opposition to Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine, on social media.

After the verdict, his wife, Yulia, posted on Instagram: “The number 9 means absolutely nothing. I love you, my dearest person in the world, and I have never ceased to be proud of you for all these many, many years.”

Her lawyers, Mikhailova and Vadim Kobzev, were briefly detained outside the prison complex after the hearing, but Kobzev later announced in a tweet that they had been released.