Kremlin critic Navalny loses appeal against jail term

Katie Ramirez
February 20, 2021

A Moscow court on Saturday rejected Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's appeal against his prison sentence, even as the country faced a top European rights court's order to free the Kremlin's most prominent foe.

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said on Twitter the court's ruling was at odds with a call by the European Court of Human Rights this week to free Navalny, and could lead to more sanctions against Moscow.

Navalny was ordered on February 2 to serve the time in a penal colony for breaching his parole terms while he was in Germany recovering from a nerve agent poisoning he blames on the Kremlin. The government of Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied the accusation, and earlier this month sentenced Navalny to 32 months in prison, saying he had broken the terms of a probation agreement tied to a 2014 embezzlement conviction.

Navalny had filed an appeal against a three-year prison sentence, but the Moscow City Court's decision to uphold the ruling likely means he will spend 2 1/2 years in a penal colony, after 1 1/2 months was shaved off due to time already served in house arrest.

Several Western countries have condemned the case and are discussing possible sanctions on Russian Federation. "Our Voldemort in his palace also wants me to feel cut off", he added, in a reference to Putin.

Navalny's case has galvanized the opposition movement in Russian Federation, sparking waves of protest in cities and towns across the country in January.

"To live is to risk it all", he said.

Navalny was accused of defaming a World War II veteran who appeared in a video a year ago advocating removing presidential term limits, which would allow Putin to stay in power beyond 2024. "Otherwise, you're just an inert chunk of randomly assembled molecules drifting wherever the universe blows you".

Navalny is also unlikely to get an early release as he has been labeled an escape threat, the state-run Tass news service reported Friday, citing a member of Russia's Public Oversight Committee.

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"Just imagine how wonderful life would be without constant lying", he said. These required him to report regularly to Russian police; however, he was unable to do so when recovering in Germany.

"I don't want to show off a lot, but the whole world knew where I was", Mr Navalny told the judge.

A law enforcement officer walks with a dog near a court building during a hearing on Alexei Navalny's appeal of his sentence in Moscow on Saturday.

"Our country is built on injustice", he said.

Navalny, who called the 94-year-old veteran and other people featured in a pro-Kremlin video last year as "corrupt stooges", "people without conscience" and "traitors", has rejected the slander charges and described them as part of official efforts to disparage him. "They want the righteousness and sooner or later they will have it".

Navalny's arrest and jailing sparked nationwide street protests in Russian Federation, but his allies - most of whom are either under house arrest or overseas - have now declared a moratorium on major demonstrations until the spring.

But he has said his comments were not specifically directed against the veteran, and that the authorities are using the charge to smear his reputation.

Prosecutors have called for Navalny to be fined the equivalent of £9,275 ($13,000) in that case.

What was Navalny accused of?

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