Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny's lawyer says will appeal against jail sentence

WION Web Team
Moscow, Russia Published: Feb 03, 2021, 07:21 AM(IST)

File photo Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critics, was arrested last month after returning from Germany where he had been recovering from being poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent

Lawyers for Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said on Tuesday they would appeal against the ruling of a Russian court which jailed him for 3.5 years.

Navalny's lawyer said the anti-corruption blogger would serve only two years and eight months in jail because of time he has already spent under house arrest.

The court's decision to turn a 2014 suspended sentence into real jail time will see Navalny, a 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner who accuses the Kremlin of poisoning him last year, serve a lengthy prison term for the first time.

He was accused of violating parole conditions by refusing to check in with prison officials and was arrested when he flew back to Moscow on January 17 from Germany, where he spent months recovering from the poisoning.

Navalny said it was impossible to make the appointments while abroad, but the judge said he had skipped meetings prior to the poisoning.

The widely anticipated ruling, which followed nationwide protests calling for Navalny's release, is likely to further strain relations with the West, which is likely to consider imposing sanctions on Russia over its handling of the case.

Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critics, was arrested last month after returning from Germany where he had been recovering from being poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent.

Tuesday's hearing focused on alleged parole violations over a suspended sentence in a 2014 embezzlement case Navalny says was fabricated.

Navalny, in a fiery speech to the court, alleged he was jailed because of Putin's concerns about him as a political rival, a suggestion the Kremlin has laughed off, referring to Navalny as a troublesome blogger without wide popular support.

'Pure cowardice'

After the ruling, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for Navalny's release, warning Washington and its allies would "hold Russia accountable for failing to uphold the rights of its citizens."

French President Emmanuel Macron called for his release, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel labelling the decision "far removed from any rule of law", while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called it "pure cowardice". 

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, due to visit Moscow later this week, said it "runs counter to Russia's international commitments on rule of law and fundamental freedoms".

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova described the Western reaction as "disconnected from reality", adding: "There is no need to interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign state."

Tens of thousands have taken to the streets in Moscow and other Russian cities over the last two weekends to call for Navalny's release, prompting a massive police clampdown that saw several thousand people arrested.

Police detained more than 1,050 protests on Tuesday alone, mostly in Moscow, according to monitoring group OVD-Info.

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