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Russia seeks 13-year jail term for Kremlin critic Navalny

March 15, 2022

Russian prosecutors have asked a court to sentence opposition leader Alexei Navalny to 13 years in prison on charges of fraud and contempt of court. The request also called for him to be held under stricter conditions.

Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny
A number of criminal cases have been launched against Navalny since he returned to RussiaImage: Press Office of Moscow's Babushkinsky District Court/TASS/dpa/picture alliance

Prosecutors on Tuesday asked that Alexei Navalny, Vladimir Putin's most prominent political opponent, be sentenced to 13 years in prison on charges of embezzlement and contempt of court.

The anti-corruption campaigner is already serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence for parole violations after surviving a poison attack that he blames on the Kremlin.

The prosecution request comes after Navalny urged Russians to protest the war in Ukraine.

What are prosecutors asking for?

Navalny is facing embezzlement and contempt of court charges in his trial, held inside the prison colony outside Moscow where he is serving his sentence.

Prosecutor Nadezhda Tikhonova called for Navalny to be sentenced to a term of 13 years and a subsequent two years of probation.

She also requested "two years of restricted freedom" for Navalny plus a fine of 1.2 million rubles (€9,700, $10,600).

It remains unclear whether the 13 years include the sentence he is already serving.

The corruption charges against Navalny carry a maximum penalty of 10 years, with contempt of court carrying a sentence of up to six months.

Alexei Navalny: Danger of dissent

Navalny's team said the prosecution's demands were more evidence that the trial was illegitimate. "We've said before that Putin wants to keep Navalny in jail forever," said Navalny's spokesperson, Kira Yarmysh.

Appeal for Russians to oppose Ukraine War

Earlier this month, Navalny urged Russians to protest the war in Ukraine wherever they were in the world. In a later appeal for peace, Navalny tweeted that the reaction of the Russian people to the war would largely define Russia's place in the history of the 21st century.

Navalny led the biggest protests in Russia against Putin and survived a poisoning attempt in 2020.

Navalny collapsed on a flight in Russia in August 2020 before being transferred to a Berlin clinic, where doctors found he had been poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok.

The Kremlin has denied any involvement with the incident.

Navalny was placed into a medically induced coma and treated in Germany, where he eventually recovered.

He returned to Russia and was immediately arrested on his arrival for violating his parole while he was out of the country as he recovered from the attack.

Since the arrest, many of Navalny's closest allies left Russia after facing multiple criminal charges. His Foundation for Fighting Corruption and a network of nearly 40 regional offices were outlawed as "extremist."

Earlier this year, Russian officials added Navalny and a number of his associates to a state registry of "extremists and terrorists."

Several criminal cases have been launched against Navalny individually, leading to suggestions that the Kremlin intends to keep him behind bars for as long as possible.

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rc/aw (Reuters, AFP, dpa)