A Russian court on Tuesday convicted top opposition leader Alexei Navalny of fraud and contempt of court, sentencing him to nine more years in prison in a move that was seen as an attempt to keep President Vladimir Putin’s biggest foe behind bars for as long as possible.
The new sentence follows a year-long crackdown by Putin on Navalny’s supporters, other opposition activists and independent journalists in which authorities appear eager to stifle all dissent.
Navalny’s close associates have faced criminal charges and left the country, and his group’s political infrastructure — an anti-corruption foundation and a nationwide network of regional offices — has been destroyed after being labeled an extremist organization.
The 45-year-old Navalny, who in 2020 survived a poisoning with a nerve agent that he blames on the Kremlin, is already serving 2½ years in a penal colony east of Moscow for a parole violation. The new trial was held in a makeshift courtroom at the facility.
In a Facebook post by his team shortly after the sentence, the usually sardonic Navalny said: “My space flight is taking a bit longer than expected.”
He added that neither he nor his comrades “will simply wait,” announcing that his Anti-Corruption Foundation will become an international organization that will “fight (Putin) until we win.”
“We will find all of their mansions in Monaco, their villas in Miami, their riches everywhere — and when we do, we will take everything from the criminal Russian elite,” the foundation’s new website said. [Continue reading…]