Russian court sentences jailed opposition leader and Putin critic Alexey Navalny to 19 more years in prison

A Russian court handed down its verdict on Friday in a new case against jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalnyto convict the politician of promoting “extremism” and extend his prison term by 19 years, according to Russian state media and his own team.

Navalny, who emerged as the most outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin’s government before he was jailed, was already serving a nine-year sentence in a high-security prison about 150 miles east of Moscow for parole violation, fraud and contempt of court.

Russian court hears new case against opposition politician Alexei Navalny
Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny appears on a screen via video link during an external hearing by the Moscow District Court in the criminal case against him on numerous charges, including the creation of an extremist organization, at the IK-6 penal colony in Melekhovo, Russia August 4, 2023.


There was some doubt about the exact duration of the new sentence as the audio feed from the court – the only immediate source of information as journalists were not allowed in the room – was of poor quality. Russia’s judicial authorities did not immediately confirm the sentence.

Navalny and many outside observers have always viewed these charges as politically motivated retaliation for his criticism of Putin and the Kremlin’s policies, both foreign and domestic.

In the new trial, Navalny was accused of creating an extremist organization, the Anti-Corruption Foundation. This organization has authored several studies on the wealth of the Russian elite. He also founded a network of nearly 40 regional offices that sought to challenge Kremlin-approved local politicians.

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Both groups were banned as extremist organizations in 2021, a designation that exposed those involved in their operations to criminal prosecution.

Navalny faced a total of seven serious charges in the trial, including participating in and financing extremist activities, creating an NGO that “violates the rights of citizens”, involving minors in dangerous acts and rehabilitating Nazism. He was convicted of all but the last of those charges on Friday.

In April, Navalny said separate proceedings had been opened against him as a result of the extremism case, in which he would be charged with terrorism and tried by a military court.

At the time, the politician said he expected the trials to result in life imprisonment.

“This sentence is going to be long,” Navalny said in a statement released by his organization on Thursday before the verdict in the case. “I urge you to think about why such a demonstratively large sentence is necessary. Its main purpose is to frighten. You, not me. I will even say this: you personally, the one who reads these lines.”

The trial was held behind closed doors. Navalny’s parents were denied access to court and have not seen their son for over a year.

Daniel Kholodny, who previously worked for Navalny’s YouTube channel, was also charged with financing and promoting extremism and was sentenced to prison on Friday, but due to poor audio quality from inside the closed courtroom, there was confusion over how many years he was given.

In a statement Thursday, Navalny said that Kholodny was part of his technical production staff, but that investigators had “made him out to be an ‘organizer’ of an extremist society,” and tried to pressure Kholodny into a deal: freedom in exchange for condemnation testimony against Navalny and his allies.

Navalny has been placed in solitary confinement 17 times at the IK-6 prison, a facility known for its repressive conditions and violent inmates.

In previous statements, his team described how prison administration denied him family visits and punished him for infractions as minor as having an unbuttoned shirt.

Navalny was arrested in January 2021 immediately after returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a poisoning he blamed on the Kremlin – a claim Russian officials have always denied.

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Shortly after his arrest, a court sentenced him to two-and-a-half years in prison for violating parole conditions of a suspended sentence in 2014 in a fraud case that Navalny insists was politically motivated.

From that time the number of cases and accusations against him snowballedwhere his allies say the Kremlin’s goal has always been to keep him locked up as long as possible.

After Navalny’s imprisonment, the country’s authorities launched a comprehensive crackdown on his associates and supporters. Many have been forced to flee the country, while others have been imprisoned, including the head of his regional office Liliya Chanysheva.

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