Alexei Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s best-known critic in Russia, told a Moscow courtroom Wednesday that he is facing extremism charges that could keep him in prison for 30 years, according to the Associated Press.
In the hearing, he fought for time to review the charges he is facing.
“It is a cynical insult, in this process investigators are trying to make it so that I can’t even see the materials of my case,” Navalny said in remarks tweeted out by his team’s Twitter account and translated from Russian. “Now, they’re probably slightly ashamed that they will discuss an obvious thing. There are 195 volumes in my case and they are not giving me the chance to study it.”
It signifies the continuation of a trend that has seen critics of Putin and his regime subject to ever harsher prison sentences amid the escalation of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Navalny is serving an 11 ½ year prison term. In February 2021, he was sentenced to two years and eight months for violating the terms of probation from an earlier sentence. An additional nine years were tacked on in March 2022 for what critics say are trumped up charges of fraud and contempt of court. He’s long been a thorn in the side of Putin and the Russian ruling elite.
He ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Moscow in 2013 and president of Russia in 2017, the latter campaign ended when the country’s Central Election Commission barred him from challenging Putin due to a fraud conviction he called politically motivated. And his 2021 film, “Putin’s Palace,” released with Navalny already behind bars, garnered 93 million views within a week of its arrival on YouTube.
As Putin has continued Russia’s war in Ukraine, Navalny and allies that have spoken out against it have run afoul of new laws criminalizing dissent. Fellow activist Vladimir Kara-Murza was earlier this month sentenced to 25 years in a “strict regime” penal colony for a cocktail of charges including “discrediting the armed forces” and treason. It is likely the longest sentence doled out by Russian authorities for political activities since the collapse of the Soviet Union, according to Leon Aron in POLITICO.
Fellow opposition leader Ilya Yashin was handed an 8 ½ year prison term in December 2022 for posts he made denouncing the treatment of Ukrainians by Russian troops in May. Also on Wednesday, a court in Yekaterinburg convened a trial of the city’s former Mayor, Yevgeny Roizman, who faces charges for critiquing the country’s invasion.
Navalny has languished in Russian prisons since shortly after he returned to the country from Germany in January 2021 after recovering from an assassination attempt he attributed to the Putin regime. His daughter, Daria, told CNN that authorities are now depriving him of food.
And he faces an additional trial on terrorism charges in connection with an April bombing in St. Petersburg that killed pro-war blogger Vladlen Tatarsky, according to the Associated Press. Navalny was behind bars at the time of the attack.
“For this criminal case, the military court will try me separately,” Navalny said in remarks reposted on his own Twitter account and translated from Russian.