Published: Wed, February 03, 2021

Alexey Navalny sentenced to prison term

Alexey Navalny sentenced to prison term

A Russian court is due to consider jailing Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny for up to three and a half years later on Tuesday in a case that has sparked nationwide protests and talk of new Western sanctions.

Navalny, a 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner who is Putin's most determined political foe, was arrested January 17 upon returning from his five-month convalescence in Germany from the poisoning which he has blamed on the Kremlin.

In 2014, a Russian court handed Navalny a three-and-a-half year suspended sentence for allegedly embezzling funds of French cosmetics company Yves Rocher.

There was a heavy riot police presence outside the Moscow City Court, and more than 250 people who had come to support the Kremlin critic were detained, according to data from the OVD police monitoring website.

His detention sparked mass protests across Russian Federation and crackdowns by authorities. Russian authorities, who have denied any involvement in the August poisoning, pressured Navalny to remain in exile. It works this way: "jail one to scare millions", Navalny stated.

Navalny's team called for another demonstration Tuesday outside the Moscow courthouse, but police were out in force, cordoning off the nearby streets and making random arrests.

Navalny excoriated Putin during an impassioned speech in a Moscow court on Tuesday, while demanding his release.

Mass protests in more than one hundred cities across Russian Federation were sparked by Navalny's arrest in a Moscow airport last month on arrival from Germany where he was recovering after being poisoned in August.

Navalny's imprisonment looks set to escalate the confrontation between the authorities and opposition protesters that has already resulted in more than 9,000 detentions at rallies in dozens of cities in the last two weekends.

Navalny, Russia's most prominent opposition leader, was poisoned in Siberia in August with the nerve agent Novichok and almost died.

Putin's crackdown on Navalny and his supporters intensified after the latter, with the help of his supporters, released a video of Putin's luxurious palace by the Black Sea.

"The UK calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Alexey Navalny and all of the peaceful protesters and journalists arrested over the last two weeks", foreign minister Dominic Raab said in a separate statement.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell is expected to raise the issue of Mr Navalny during a visit this week to Moscow.

His suspended sentence related to a 2014 fraud conviction, which the European Court of Human Rights condemned as "extensively and unforeseeably construed to their detriment", following a fundamentally unfair trial.

The probe was published alongside a YouTube video report that has garnered more than 100 million views.

More than a dozen Western diplomats attended the hearing, and Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said their presence was part of efforts by the West to contain Russian Federation, adding that it could be an attempt to exert "psychological pressure" on the judge.

Kremlin said the police response to protests Alexei Navalny's jail term were "justified".

Asked about the police violence, Putin's spokesman Peskov told reporters that unsanctioned protests warrant the tough police action.

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