UA Russian judge – Margarita Kotova – found Alexei Navalny guilty of “fraud” and contempt of court on Tuesday March 22, before a verdict was finally pronounced in the afternoon. Alexei Navalny was sentenced to nine years in prison. Added to this is a sentence of one and a half years of probation and a fine of 1.2 million rubles, or about 10,000 euros at the rate of the day, while the Kremlin critic has already been imprisoned for more than a year.
He will have to serve his sentence in a “severe regime penal colony”, which means that his conditions of detention will become stricter. The charismatic anti-corruption activist and former lawyer, 45, had been on trial since mid-February behind the walls of his penal colony, 100 kilometers east of Moscow, in an improvised court. Alexei Navalny was accused of embezzling millions of rubles in donations to his anti-corruption organizations and of “contempt of court” during a previous trial.
“Putin is afraid of the truth”
After the verdict, Alexei Navalny said he would continue his fight against the Kremlin, believing that Vladimir Putin is “afraid of the truth”. “The fight against censorship, bringing the truth to the people of Russia, remains our priority,” he explained. His lawyers were also arrested in front of the penal colony in which he had been sentenced a few minutes earlier on the grounds, it seems, that they were obstructing traffic in front of the prison by speaking with the press.
In August 2020, he fell seriously ill in Siberia, victim of poisoning with a nerve agent sponsored, according to him, by the Russian president in person. The Kremlin denies this, but Russian authorities have never investigated the alleged assassination attempt. Upon his return to Russia in January 2021, after five months of convalescence, he was arrested and then sentenced to two and a half years in prison for a “fraud” case dating back to 2014 and involving the French company Yves Rocher.
In June 2021, his organizations, which had been campaigning for years across Russia, were designated “extremists” and immediately banned, driving many activists into exile to avoid prosecution. Others have since been arrested and face heavy prison sentences. This relentless crackdown, which has been accompanied by the banning of the last media outlets and NGOs critical of the Kremlin, has prompted an outcry in Western countries and sanctions against Moscow.
15,000 opponents of the war in Ukraine arrested in Russia
Even from his penal colony, Alexei Navalny continues to send messages castigating the power of Vladimir Putin. Since the offensive in Ukraine, he has spoken out strongly against the fighting. He has continued to call for demonstrations against the conflict despite the risks involved, the authorities having further strengthened their legal arsenal, with heavy prison sentences at stake, to stifle any criticism of the Russian army. Despite everything, more than 15,000 people have been arrested in Russia in almost a month for having demonstrated against the offensive, according to the specialized NGO OVD-Info.
At the same time, the Russian government has also tightened its grip on the dissemination of information on the conflict, by blocking access in Russia to dozens of local and foreign media. On Monday, Russian justice also banned the popular American social networks Instagram and Facebook, accused, like Navalny, of “extremism”. These are already blocked in Russia, as are Twitter and TikTok.