Alexei Navalny will remain in jail through at least Feb. 15, as a Moscow regional court rejected the Russian opposition leader’s appeal of his detention. Navalny was arrested shortly after returning home from Germany, where he was treated for a near-fatal poisoning – an attack he blames on President Vladimir Putin’s government.
Navalny’s detention provoked widespread protests in Russia, which in turn have resulted in thousands of arrests. Navalny and his supporters have been able to spread their calls for demonstrations through TikTok, YouTube and Instagram, despite regulators’ attempts to stifle that information. More protests are planned for this weekend.
Appearing in court from jail via a video link, Navalny said that “tens of millions of Russians agree with him — and that the authorities can’t continue arresting people forever,” NPR’s Lucian Kim reports from Moscow.
As The Moscow Times reports, “Two days before his probation in a 2014 fraud case expired on Dec. 30, Russia’s prison service threatened to convert Navalny’s suspended sentence to a real prison term for failing to appear before probation officers while he was in Berlin.”
With Navalny now ordered to remain in jail, a court will weigh imposing a prison sentence on Feb. 2 stemming from the earlier case, according to state-run media.
Navalny says his fraud conviction was retribution for his activism. Election officials have also cited the mark on his record as justification to reject his attempt to run against Putin for the presidency.
Navalny rose to fame for his investigations that exposed corruption, and for political mobilization against Putin’s regime. He recently reprised that role, releasing a bombshell video that accuses Putin of using a slush fund to build a palace on the Black Sea. That report has now been viewed nearly 100 million times on YouTube. The Kremlin denied the claim, calling the investigation “pure nonsense.”
When Navalny was in Germany, he spent weeks in a medically induced coma as doctors sought to help his body recover from a variant of Novichok, a lethal Soviet-era nerve agent.
This week, an official from the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) insisted in an interview with the Interfax news agency that officials were not attempting to hold Navalny accountable for missing appointments while he was in a coma.
“There has been a lot of speculation lately that the convict Navalny was unable to show up at the inspectorate as he was in a coma,” said Yelena Korobkova, a department head at the FSIN. “However, he had systematically violated the terms of his probationary period even before his hospitalization,” she said, accusing Navalny of missing other dates in the first half of 2020.