Alexey Navalny faces more jail time, with a Moscow court hearing a request from the country’s prison service to jail the opposition leader for up to three and a half years for alleged parole violations.
Tuesday’s hearing comes after tens of thousands took to the country’s streets on Sunday, chanting slogans against President Vladimir Putin and demanding the freedom of Navalny, who was arrested last month on his return from Germany , where he was treated for an alleged nerve agent. attack.
More than 5,400 demonstrators were arrested by the authorities, according to human rights group OVD Info.
While state-run media dismissed the second weekend of mass protests as minimal and claimed they showed opposition failure, Navalny’s team said turnout demonstrated “overwhelming national support” for the Kremlin’s fiercest critic.
His allies called on protesters to rally outside the Moscow courthouse on Tuesday.
“Without your help, we will not be able to resist the lawlessness of the authorities,” the politician’s team said in a social media post.
The 44-year-old man was arrested on January 17 upon his return from Berlin, where he spent five months recovering from alleged nerve poisoning he attributes to the Kremlin. The Russian authorities reject the accusation. He now faces jail time for alleged probation violations following a 2014 money laundering conviction, widely seen as politically motivated.
Last month, the Russian prison administration filed a petition to replace his three-and-a-half-year suspended sentence from conviction with one he must serve. The attorney general’s office supported the motion on Monday, alleging that Navalny had engaged in “unlawful behavior” while on probation.
In recent years, Navalny has served a number of short prison terms, but never a long prison term.
A court spokeswoman told AFP news agency that Navalny was scheduled to appear in person.
‘Path to great trouble’
Kremlin critics say a concerted effort is underway to silence Navalny’s team, dismantle his Anti-Corruption Foundation and put pressure on his family.
On Monday, a court sentenced Navalny’s wife Yulia to a fine of 20,000 rubles ($ 265) for participating in an “unauthorized” rally for her husband. His spokesperson, Kira Yarmysh, was also under house arrest until March on suspicion of violating COVID-19 regulations during unauthorized gatherings on January 23.
Several others, including Navalny’s brother Oleg, and prominent activist Lyubov Sobol, are already under house arrest.
OVD Info said Sunday’s wave of arrests included 82 journalists and was the highest number in nine years it has kept records during the Putin era. At least 51 protesters were beaten by police while in detention, he said.
Meanwhile, Pavel Chikov, a lawyer and rights activist, said police opened 40 criminal cases in 18 different regions linked to the two weekend protests.
In St. Petersburg, the mediator said that the authorities had launched “essentially a military operation” against the demonstrators and paralyzed the city.
“Batons and tasers will not solve the existing problems. Violence only breeds intransigence and breeds bitterness, ”Ombudsman Alexander Shishlov said in a statement.
“It’s a path to big problems. It’s time to quit.
Navalny’s imprisonment and the crackdown on protests sparked international outrage and sparked new discussions on Western sanctions against Russia.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted that Washington “condemns the continued use of harsh tactics against peaceful protesters and journalists by Russian authorities for a second week in a row.” He also called for the release of Navalny and those detained “for having exercised their human rights”.
Moscow dismissed Blinken’s call as “gross interference in the internal affairs of Russia” and accused Washington of trying to destabilize the situation by supporting what it called illegal protests.
“We are talking about illegal gatherings,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday. “Of course, the police are taking action against participants in these illegal gatherings – hence the number of detainees.”
The German government has also called for the immediate release of the arrested protesters, as well as Navalny. It “condemns the use of force by the Russian security forces and once again disproportionate action against citizens demonstrating peacefully,” government spokeswoman Martina Fietz said.
France has meanwhile urged Germany to abandon the Nordstream II gas pipeline project with Russia in protest of Navalny’s detention.