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Jailed Putin critic Navalny found guilty of fraud by Russian court

A Russian court on Tuesday sentenced jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny to nine years in prison on fraud charges, in a ruling that will keep President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent opponent out of active politics for years ahead.

Navalny, who was also found guilty of contempt of court, is already serving a two-and-a-half year sentence at a prison camp east of Moscow for parole violations related to charges he says were trumped up to thwart his political ambitions.

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Navalny, who the court also fined 1.2 million rubles (US$11,535), has dismissed the latest criminal case against him as politically motivated and pleaded not guilty.

“Nine years. Well, as the characters of my favorite TV series ‘The Wire’ used to say: ‘You only do two days. That’s the day you go in and the day you come out,’” a tweet from Navalny’s account read shortly after the sentencing was handed down.

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“I even had a T-shirt with this slogan, but the prison authorities confiscated it, considering the print extremist.”

Earlier in the day, a gaunt Navalny stood beside his lawyers in a room filled with prison security officers as the judge read out the accusations against him. The 45-year-old seemed unfazed, looking down as he flipped through court documents.

Prosecutors had asked the court to send him to a maximum-security penal colony for 13 years on charges of fraud and contempt of court. A ruling is expected later on Tuesday.

Judge Margarita Kotova said Navalny had committed a criminal offence by publicly insulting the court.

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She confirmed he had pleaded not guilty to the fraud charges against him.

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Navalny was jailed last year when he returned to Russia after receiving medical treatment in Germany following a poison attack with a Soviet-era nerve agent during a visit to Siberia in 2020. Navalny blamed Putin for the attack.

The Kremlin said it had seen no evidence that Navalny was poisoned and denied any Russian role if he was.

After the last court hearing into his case on March 15, Navalny struck a typically defiant tone, writing via Instagram: “If the prison term is the price of my human right to say things that need to be said … then they can ask for 113 years. I will not renounce my words or deeds.”

Russian authorities have cast Navalny and his supporters as subversives determined to destabilize Russia with backing from the West. Many of Navalny’s allies have fled Russia rather than face restrictions or jail at home.

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Navalny’s opposition movement has been labeled “extremist” and shut down, although his supporters continue to express their political stance, including their opposition to Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine, on social media.

(Writing by Kevin Liffey/Reuters reporters;Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

© 2022 Reuters

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