A Russian court has 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.
The 45-year-old was found guilty of embezzling funds for his anti-corruption foundation – which is now banned in Russia – and for insulting a judge in an earlier trial.
Navalny, who was added to an official list of “terrorists and extremists” in January, 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 and to gag him as a political opponent of President Vladimir Putin.
Navalny, who the Lefortovo court also fined 1.2 million rubles ($15,505), has dismissed the latest criminal case against him as politically motivated and pleaded not guilty.
Russian police detained two of Navalny’s lawyers shortly after the court sentenced him, according to a Reuters reporter at the scene.
The lawyers, Olga Mikhailova and Vadim Kobzev, had said Navalny would appeal against the court’s decision.
Prosecutors wanted to have him sent to a maximum-security penal colony for 13 years on charges of fraud and contempt of court.
His national opposition movement has been labelled “extremist” and shut down, but he has continued to issue messages on social media from prison through his legal team and aides, recently urging Russians to oppose the war in Ukraine.
Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, said last week prosecutors had requested a transfer to a maximum-security jail because they said he had committed crimes in the prison camp.
“Probably it will be further from Moscow and lawyers will have difficulty entering this colony and we will not have access to Alexei,” she said on Monday.
“It’s not a question of his freedom, it’s a question of his life … They are the same people that tried to kill him already … This is what we are afraid of.”
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 toxin during a visit to Siberia in 2020.
Navalny blamed Mr Putin for the attack, a charge the Kremlin denies.
Many of Navalny’s most prominent allies have left Russia rather than face restrictions or jail at home.
-with reporting from DPA