(Moscow) A Moscow court on Tuesday sentenced rival Alex Navalny to nearly three years in prison for leading to a unanimous condemnation of the West in the wake of the crackdown on protests.
United States, European Union, Canada, Germany, France, United Kingdom: All called for his “immediate release.” “Political dissent is never a crime,” French President Emmanuel Macron stressed on Twitter.
A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman condemned the Western reactions as “disconnected from reality” and “interfering in the affairs of the sovereign state”.
Judge Natalia Repnikova on Tuesday evening estimated that the man who had established himself as Vladimir Putin’s main critic for ten years had violated his judicial control and therefore should be sentenced to 3.5 years suspended from 2014, spending at least ten months of that year under house arrest.
According to her lawyer Olga Mikhailova, her client faces “approximately” two years and eight months in prison. But he appeals.
It was the first long sentence for Mr Navalny, who specializes in the investigation of elite corruption, and alleged that his poisoning was ordered by the Russian president last August.
As soon as the sentence was announced, his organization, the Anti-Corruption Fund, called for an immediate demonstration at the Kremlin’s feet. “We are waiting for you at Place du Manage,” she said on Twitter.
A group of helmeted police and cell phone vans were quickly dispatched to the scene, according to AFP journalists who witnessed the arrests.
“Thief Putin! “Several hundred demonstrators chanted slogans in the city center.
“There is no justice in this country,” Oksana, 36, told AFP.
Three hundred people were arrested during the day in Russia during various naval pro-government activities, especially in Moscow.
The 44-year-old opponent heard the verdict, with his hands in his pockets in a glass cage set aside for the defendants. He sent heart signals to his wife Yulia.
At trial, he denied the allegations were intended to “intimidate millions of Russians.”
“You can’t put the whole country in jail! He made the announcement, citing tens of thousands of arrests over the past two weekends at the largest opposition rallies in years.
Alexei Navalny reiterated that Mr Putin had ordered the FSB, security services, to poison him with a neuroscientist. In December, Navalny claimed in a video that he had tricked an FSB agent over the phone into applying poison to one of his underwear at his hotel in Siberia.
He says Putin “will go down in history as the poison of boxers.”
Authorities have denied all of these allegations. European laboratories have confirmed novichok-type poison developed by the USSR for military purposes.
The case, which was heard on Tuesday, was related to a request from prison services, which accused Navalny of disrespecting his judicial review in the wake of his 2014 suspended sentence. The latter was condemned by the European Court of Human Rights.
Mr Navalny said the appointments were missed due to recovery in Germany. But the judge felt he had missed more before he was admitted to his hospital.
The opponent was arrested on January 17 after returning to Russia.
The assassination attempt and arrest sparked a wave of Western criticism, in the wake of already devastating relationships. The head of the European embassy Joseph Borel is expected in Moscow on Friday and asked to see the opponent.
The Kremlin described the desire to link EU-Russia relations to Mr Navalny’s fate as “stupid”.
The opponent is still the target of multiple actions. On Friday, he will appear for a veteran’s “reputation.” In another case there were also allegations of fraud.
Many of its allies and collaborators were placed under house arrest, imprisoned or tried.
The opposition, however, succeeded in mobilizing tens of thousands of supporters in about 100 Russian cities on January 23 and 31.
This protest, unprecedented for years, comes during the fall of the legislative elections and the unpopularity of the ruling party.
This fueled Mr Navalny’s investigation into allegations that Vladimir Putin was the beneficiary of a “palace” and that it had been viewed more than 100 million times on YouTube.