Russia rejects Western criticism over Navalny’s prison term

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba       Open source

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba Open source

A Moscow court has sentenced Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny to three and a half years in prison for violating probation terms over a 2014 fraud case involving French cosmetics company Yves Rocher.

So Russia's most prominent opposition figure lobbed every barbed word he was allowed to speak in court at President Vladimir Putin, the man Mr. Navalny blames for his imprisonment, his poisoning previous year and what he sees as the decline of his country.

Speaking in court, Navalny attributed his arrest to Putin's "fear and hatred", saying that the Russian leader will go down to history as a "poisoner".

While he has never held elected office, Mr Navalny has made a name for himself with anti-graft investigations exposing the wealthy lifestyles of Russia's elite.

Navalny had spent time under house arrest after the 2014 conviction - which was denounced by the European Court of Human Rights - and Repnikova said that would count as time served.

The Kremlin critic on Tuesday called the hearing a vain attempt by Moscow to scare millions of Russians into submission.

The widely anticipated ruling, which followed nationwide protests calling for Navalny's release, is likely to further strain relations with the West, which is likely to consider imposing sanctions on Russian Federation over its handling of the case.

Around 280 people including journalists were arrested today while protesting in front of the court, OVD-Info reports.

Strong worldwide reaction to the sentence came quickly, with the Council of Europe saying the judgement "defied all credibility".

In court, Navalny said for the past five years he has diligently reported twice a month, in compliance with rules of his probation, and that he sent notifications of his whereabouts as soon as he came out of coma.

Last month, thousands of people had been detained during two days of protests across the country.

Tuesday's hearing came after tens of thousands took to the streets in cities across Russian Federation for a second consecutive weekend on Sunday to protest Navalny's arrest.

"The aim of that hearing is to scare a great number of people", Navalny said.

Navalny's jailing has triggered massive protests across Russian Federation for the past two weekends, with tens of thousands taking to the streets to demand his release and chant slogans against Putin.

Navalny excoriated Putin during an impassioned speech in a Moscow court on Tuesday, while demanding his release. Like Putin, Peskov avoids mentioning Navalny by name.

More than a dozen Western diplomats also attended Tuesday's hearing - which was open to the media but closed to film crews and photographers In a Facebook statement, Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova slammed their presence as an attempt at interfering with Russia's domestic affairs.

The United States is deeply concerned by a prison term meted out to Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Tuesday, and repeated its call for his immediate release, saying it would coordinate closely with allies about how to hold Russian Federation accountable.

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, says Navalny's case is exclusively a domestic matter and that Russian Federation will not take instructions from foreign governments.

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