Politics

At new fraud trial, Navalny vows to fight on against Kremlin


Navalny, seen here with his wife Yuliya, is serving a two-and-a-half year sentence, but the new charges could see his time behind bars extended

Imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said Tuesday he would keep challenging Russia’s leadership during the opening of a new fraud trial that could extend his jail term by more than a decade.

Navalny appeared at the beginning of the hearing via video link wearing a prison uniform and flanked by guards at the makeshift court inside his penal colony, smiling and embracing his wife.

The 45-year-old opposition leader has already been behind bars for a year, after surviving a poison attack he blames on the Kremlin.

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“You’re going to increase my term indefinitely. What can we do about it?” Navalny said during the court hearing.

The new case was launched in December 2020, when Navalny was recovering in Germany after a poisoning attack with Soviet-designed poison.

– ‘Illegal persecution’ –

Investigators accuse Navalny of stealing for personal use more than $4.7 million in donations that were given to his political organisations. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

Navalny grew a wide following among liberal-leaning Russians with videos exposing the corruption among the elite. Many of the investigations gained millions of views online.

“We believe the persecution of Navalny is illegal, is distinctly political in nature, and aimed at discrediting and removing him from political activity,” lawyer Olga Mikhailova said.

The start of the trial comes during a week of intensive talks between Russia and the West over Ukraine, with Scholz the latest leader in Moscow for talks with Putin.

“My position on the Navalny case is very clear: his judgement is incompatible with the principles of the rule of law and I have expressed this view on many occasions,” Scholz said.

On the eve of the hearing Amnesty International criticised the “sham trial, attended by prison guards rather than the media”.

In separate charges, Navalny also faces up to six months in prison if convicted of contempt of court.

After his arrest, Navalny’s political organisations across the country were declared “extremist” and shuttered, while many key aides fled Russia fearing prosecution.

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