Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny jailed
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was on Tuesday sentenced to more than two-and-a-half years in prison on charges that he violated probation while he was recuperating in Germany after being poisoned. Navalny was arrested on January 17 upon his return from Germany where he was treated after the attack with a nerve agent, which he has blamed on the Kremlin.
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.
Russia’s prison authority FSIN has accused the Kremlin critic of violating parole by staying in Germany after he recovered from being poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent in August. The suspended sentence dates back to an embezzlement case that the European Court of Human Rights has ruled as unfair.
In court, Navalny’s two defense lawyers reiterated their argument that they had provided the Russian authorities with a medical certificate from Berlin’s Charité hospital in December, detailing Navalny’s condition and treatment. They also said the letter mentioned the address of the hotel in Germany where Navalny had been staying.
Nonetheless, a FSIN representative claimed the prison authority had no idea of Navalny’s whereabouts, and accused him of “hiding from authorities.”
The atmosphere in the courtroom was tense, with an exasperated Navalny interrupting the proceedings to tell the prison authority representative: “Tell me please what more I could have done? I was in a coma, then in intensive care, then I sent you a letter. You had my address and telephone number.”
“Why are you lying and misleading the court saying you don’t know where I was?”
The opposition leader followed the hearing from a glass cage facing a desk behind which sat a female prosecutor and a male representative of the prison authority. At times he visibly scoffed at their words, including when the prison authority spokesperson said they had not taken any action against Navalny earlier, despite him having violated parole some 50 times in recent years, because the hope was he would “better his ways.”
Navalny’s wife Yulia followed the proceedings from the first row.
Tuesday’s hearing came after tens of thousands took to the streets in cities across Russia for a second consecutive weekend on Sunday to protest Navalny’s arrest. The Russian authorities detained more than 5,000 people and more than 80 journalists, sometimes using force and tasers.
More than a dozen Western diplomats also attended Tuesday’s hearing — which was open to the media but closed to film crews and photographers In a Facebook statement, Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova slammed their presence as an attempt at interfering with Russia’s domestic affairs.
The jailing of Navalny was quickly condemned by politicians from across the globe.
U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement that London “calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Alexey Navalny and all of the peaceful protesters and journalists arrested over the last two weeks.
“Today’s perverse ruling, targeting the victim of a poisoning rather than those responsible, shows Russia is failing to meet the most basic commitments expected of any responsible member of the international community.”
In a tweet, French President Emmanuel Macron described the court decision as “unacceptable” and called for Navalny’s “immediate release.” He said respect for human rights and democratic freedom was “not negotiable.”
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the ruling was “a bitter blow against fundamental freedoms & the rule of law.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that Washington is “deeply concerned” by the decision to jail Navalny and called for the Russian government “to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Navalny, as well as the hundreds of other Russian citizens wrongfully detained in recent weeks for exercising their rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she condemned the sentencing “in the strongest possible terms” while the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said the ruling “runs counter Russia’s international commitments on rule of law & fundamental freedoms.” Borrell is due to travel to Russia on Thursday. According to a press statement released before Tuesday’s court ruling, the “poisoning, detention and arrest of opposition politician Alexei Navalny, and the concerns over fundamental freedoms and human rights in Russia more broadly” will be Borrell’s agenda.
“We do not accept his sentence — justice must not be politicised,” tweeted European Council President Charles Michel.
Weeks after abandoning the number, President Joe Biden once again set a 62,500 cap on refugees allowed into the United States for the rest of this fiscal year, the White House announced on Monday. The number delivers on an increase Biden initially promised in February, though still falls short of what he had pledged during the campaign. It marks a stunning and rapid turnaround after the White House said several weeks ago it would keep the number of refugees allowed into the United States at a historic low of 15,000 — a ceiling first implemented by President Donald Trump.
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has started a hunger strike in prison to protest officials’ failure to provide proper treatment for his back and leg pains. In a statement posted Wednesday on Instagram, Navalny complained about prison authorities’ refusal to give him the right medicines and to allow his doctor to visit him behind bars.
Joe Biden has joined European leaders in condemning Turkey’s withdrawal from a landmark international accord designed to protect women from violence. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued a decree early on Saturday annulling Turkey’s ratification of the Istanbul convention, a landmark European treaty protecting women from violence that it was the first country to sign 10 years ago and that bears the name of its largest city. The convention requires governments to adopt legislation prosecuting domestic violence and similar abuse as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation.
A company newly sanctioned by the U.S. over Alexei Navalny’s poisoning attack is tied to the money-laundering network that Natalia Veselnitskaya tried to cover up at the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting, according to financial records obtained by The Daily Beast. Now we know why Vladimir Putin was so desperate to play down the international corruption probes that began when Sergei Magnitsky uncovered a $230 million fraud on the Russian people. For the first time, that dark-money network can be linked to the murderous chemical-weapons program run by Russia’s notorious intelligence services. After exposing the massive theft of state money, Magnitsky ended up dead in a Russian prison cell.