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Alexei Navalny handed “Stalinist” 19-year prison sentence for extremism

The Moscow City Court has sentenced the Russian opposition leader and founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (ACF) Alexei Navalny to 19 years in prison on charges of extremism, according to a report from The Insider’s correspondent who witnessed the announcement of the verdict via video stream. The hearing was held at a remote session at Penal Colony № 6 in the Vladimir region, where Navalny is already serving an 11.5-year sentence.

The former technical director of the Navalny LIVE YouTube channel, Daniel Kholodny, who was tried together with the politician, was also sentenced to a lengthy prison term, although the exact length of the sentence is currently unclear.

The Insider's correspondent present in the video streaming hall at Penal Colony No. 6 noted that the stream's poor audio quality prevented journalists from correctly hearing the wording of the verdict.

Update: Navalny's 19-year sentence was imposed as an aggregate of all his convictions, including previous sentences which have not yet been served.All sentences are compounded, starting with Kirovles, a lawyer familiar with the verdict told the BBC's Russian Service on condition of anonymity.

Prior to the announcement of the verdict on August 4, the 47-year-old Navalny was already serving a nine-year sentence for fraud and contempt of court. He also was sentenced in 2021 to two and a half years in prison for a parole violation. Taking into account the time Navalny has served under house arrest, pre-trial detention and in a penal colony — over three years — his remaining time behind bars now stands at more than 15 years.

Several weeks ago, Russian state prosecutors asked the court to sentence Navalny to another 20 years in a penal colony on criminal charges — including “extremism” — in what has become known as the “extremist case.”

In case of Navalny's conviction, prosecutors also requested that the politician serve his sentence in a “special regime” penal colony — a term used to refer to the Russian prisons with the highest level of security and the harshest inmate restrictions. According to Russian law, such penal colonies are designated for men with life sentences or “especially dangerous recidivists.”

Navalny was charged under six articles of Russia's Criminal Code: incitement to extremism, creation of an NGO violating citizens' rights, financing extremism, forming an extremist community, involving minors in dangerous activities, and rehabilitation of Nazism.

On the eve of the verdict, Navalny published the following address on social media:

“The sentence will be read in twenty-four hours and I want to say several words before it's read. I just want to put several figures in a context.
It's going to be a huge term. This is what's called a ‘Stalinist’ term. They asked for 20 years so they will give 18 or something around it. It doesn't really matter, because the terrorism case is on the way. I could get another 10 years there.
So my first request is. When the figure is announced, please show solidarity with me and other political prisoners by thinking for a minute why such an exemplary huge term is necessary. Its main purpose is to intimidate. You, not me. I'll even say this: you personally, who are reading these words.
We live in a country where tens of millions of people right now are against corruption, war, and lawlessness. We know for sure that if one in ten of those outraged by the corruption of Putin and his officials took to the streets, the government would fall tomorrow. We know for sure that if those who are against the war took to the streets, they would stop it immediately.
It's all just wishful thinking. It doesn't work that way. Someone has to be first, and it's scary to be the first. Russia is not an exception. All changes are achieved by 10% of citizens - the most active ones. That is you.
To repress (imprison, punish, fine) even 10% — that's one and a half million people — is now impossible neither politically nor organizationally. So we need to daze and intimidate them, to discourage them from doing anything.
This Putin's (in fact any dictator's) strategy works. One example. The main invulnerability of our organization has always been that we have never been cut off from money: we are financed by tens, hundreds of thousands of people in small payments.However, by inflating the cases of financing extremism, the authorities have achieved the fact that it has become ‘a little bit risky’ to support our organization from inside Russia, which is 95% of our donors.
Finances are the basis of activity, you can't get anywhere without them. The intimidation worked perfectly. I remind you, by the way, that here is the link to support us if you are not in Russia: [link]
To be honest, we always help Putin's strategy of intimidation by throwing hysterics and clutching at our hearts over every arrest. We must not forget about anyone, but at the same time, we must firmly realize that power in Russia has been usurped and illegally seized. This should be treated cold-bloodedly. Putin must not achieve his goal. Therefore, my request number two is: when the sentence is announced, please think about only one, really important thought — what else can I personally do to resist?
The third request is the most important. When answering this question to yourself, please do not dare to say, ‘Nothing.’ You surely can. Everyone can do something. Talk to your neighbors, and put up a flyer. Share with others our investigations.
Send 500 rubles a month to us or other opposition organizations and media. Do a blog. Participate in our The Good Truth Machine 2 project (link), and spread awareness on your social media. Support political prisoners. Paint graffiti. Go to a rally. There is no shame in choosing the safest way to resist. There is shame in doing nothing. It's shameful to let yourself be intimidated.
Acknowledgements:
1.Thank you all, of course. Everything that happens to me is much easier to handle because I feel your support every day and every minute.
2.Many thanks to this part of common sense in the legal madness called «trial in prison», which will end tomorrow. To my lawyers Olga Mikhailova, Vadim Kobzev, Alexander Fedulov and Danya Kholodny's lawyer Svetlana Davydova. They are fighting like lions.
3. To the defense witnesses: [Yevgeny] Stupin, [Vladimir] Kara-Murza, [Yevgeny] Roizman, [Liliya] Chanysheva, [Vadim] Ostanin, [Dmitry] Muratov, [Alexei] Gorinov, [Ilya] Yashin, [Svetlana] Demchuk, Golikov, Nikolaenko, Popov, Moroz.
4. Special thanks to my main personal inspiration in this process. It is my accomplice Danya Kholodny, a 25-year-old guy who accidentally got into this meat grinder. The technician of Navalny LIVE channel. Danya had already served a year and a half in jail. Unlike me, they took him to the trial in handcuffs. During the investigation, they offered him freedom many times in exchange for testimony against everyone, but he refused.
Kholodny is in a good mood, cheerful, and doesn't lose his spirit. Most importantly — he understands why this process was invented but doesn't let himself be intimidated and break his will. Be like him.”

The trial took place in secret, without any audience or media presence, resulting in limited information becoming public. Alexei Navalny mentioned on Twitter that his defense witnesses included convicted politicians Ilya Yashin, Vladimir Kara-Murza, and Liliya Chanysheva, as well as Vadim Ostanin, the former coordinator of Navalny's Barnaul headquarters, who was recently sentenced to 9 years in prison for “extremism.” Former Yekaterinburg mayor Yevgeny Roizman and Novaya Gazeta editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov also testified for the defense.

Materials from the case were published on Navalny's Telegram channel, including the lyrics of the song “Navalny Lekha” [“Lekha” is a diminutive form of the name “Alexei” in Russian — translator’s note] by rapper Morgenstern, who was declared a “foreign agent” in Russia. A confirmation of a cryptocurrency transfer from a wallet named “PutinHuj” [“PutinD*ck” — translator’s note] was also revealed.

While serving his current prison term, Navalny was regularly placed in a punishment cell on various grounds (his most recent stint in the SHU, administered 13 days before sentencing in the “extremist case,” was linked to him “improperly introducing himself” to a prison officer) and was given so-called “educational work” (such as being forced to listen to the playback of a Vladimir Putin speech for 100 days in a row). The politician is also denied the family visits required by law, which led Navalny's wife, children and parents to file a class action lawsuit against the prison.

Before his January 2021 arrest, Navalny exposed official corruption and led major anti-Kremlin protests across Russia. After recovering from nerve agent poisoning in Germany, executed by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), he returned to Moscow, and was arrested by police officers at passport control at Sheremetyevo Airport.

A joint investigation by Bellingcat, The Insider and CNN, with contributions from Der Spiegel, published in December 2020, revealed the names and ranks of the FSB officers responsible for poisoning Alexei Navalny with the Novichok nerve agent.

After the release of the investigation, Navalny called Konstantin Kudryavtsev, one of the FSB officers mentioned in the report, introducing himself as an assistant to Nikolai Patrushev, the Secretary of Russia’s Security Council. In the conversation that followed, Kudryavtsev gave details of Navalny's poisoning.

Cover photo: Aleksandra Astakhova, Mediazona

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