Kremlin critic Navalny says Russia has handed down new criminal charges

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Alexey Navalny is seen on screens via a video link from the IK-2 corrective penal colony in Pokrov during a court hearing to consider an appeal against his prison sentence in Moscow, Russia [File: Evgenia Novozhenina/ Reuters]

Russia launches ‘new criminal case against me every three months’, says opposition leader serving 19-year sentence.

Alexey Navalny, Russia’s jailed opposition leader, said he has been informed of new criminal charges against him.

The Kremlin critic, who is already serving a 19-year sentence, said on social media on Friday that he had additionally been charged under Article 214 of the penal code, which covers vandalism.

“I have no idea what article 214 is, and there’s nowhere to look. You’ll know before I do,” he said on his Telegram channel.

Navalny, 47, is already serving sentences totalling more than 30 years on charges including extremism, which he denies, and has spent much of the last two years in solitary confinement for a range of alleged misdemeanours.

“They really do initiate a new criminal case against me every three months. Rarely does an inmate confined to a solitary cell for over a year have such a vibrant social and political existence,” read the comments issued through his associates.

The vandalism charge could add up to another three years to his sentence, Navalny said, citing a letter he had received from Russia’s Investigative Committee in prison.

In September, he lost his appeal against the 19-year prison term, which was imposed on August 4 after he was convicted on six charges related to alleged “extremist activity”, all of which he denied.

That latest sentence was on top of 11 and a half years he was already serving at the IK-6 penal colony at Melekhovo, about 235km (146 miles) east of Moscow, on fraud and other charges, which he also rejected as politically motivated and designed to silence his criticism of President Vladimir Putin.

Navalny is by far the best-known figure in Russia’s splintered opposition, with his supporters believing that he will one day be freed from jail to lead the country.

His political movement has been outlawed and its key figures have been jailed or fled abroad as part of a crackdown on dissent that has intensified since Russia invaded Ukraine last year.

In November, three of his lawyers were placed on a register of “terrorists and extremists” by a financial watchdog, five weeks after being arrested on suspicion of belonging to an “extremist group”.

Navalny earned admiration around the world for voluntarily returning to Russia in 2021 from Germany, where he had been treated for what Western laboratory tests showed was a near-fatal attempt to poison him with a nerve agent in Siberia.

He was arrested on arrival.

The Kremlin denied it had tried to have him killed, with Putin commenting: “If someone had wanted to poison him, they would have finished him off.”

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

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