News of the Day: 3 February 2021

The Guardian: A Moscow court has sentenced Alexei Navalny to two years and eight months in a prison colony in a landmark decision for Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on the country’s leading opposition figure. The move triggered marches in Moscow and the arrest of more than 1,000 protesters. Navalny, who has accused the Russian president and his allies of stealing billions, was jailed for violating parole from a 2014 sentence for embezzlement in a case he has said was politically motivated. After the verdict, several hundred Navalny supporters marched in central Moscow. Videos by local media or shared on social media showed police in body armour hitting protesters with staves. More than 1,000 people were arrested across the country in the course of the day, according to the independent monitoring group OVD-info. The court’s decision makes Navalny the most prominent political prisoner in Russia and may be the most important verdict against a foe of Putin’s since the 2005 jailing of the oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Human Rights Watch: Today, a court in Moscow sentenced Sergei Smirnov, editor-in-chief of the independent “Mediazona” news outlet, to 25 days in detention for “repeated violation” of the public assemblies’ rules. His offense? Retweeting a humorous tweet about Smirnov’s physical resemblance to the leader of a Russian rock band. The tweet featured a picture of the rock artist, stating he was pro-Navalny, and contained the date and the time of the January 23 protest. The “repeated” nature of the violation was based on an earlier charge that Smirnov had attended a  peaceful protest held by fellow journalists in support of detained colleagues. Initially, police attempted to charge Smirnov with traffic interference during the January 23 protest, but had to drop it because he didn’t actually attend that protest. The judge rejected the defense motions to have the evidence examined, including a linguistic examination of the tweet in question.

RFE/RL: A Moscow court has sentenced Sergei Smirnov, the chief editor of the news website Mediazona, to 25 days in jail after finding him guilty of “repeated violations” of the law on mass gatherings. The Tverskoi district court announced its ruling on February 3. Smirnov was detained on January 30 near his home when, he says, he went out for a walk with his son. He was released shortly afterward but charged with violating the law on rallies. According to the investigators, Smirnov posted a statement on Twitter that contained elements of calling for unsanctioned rallies to support jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny.

Meduza: On the night of Tuesday, February 2, protesters took to the streets in several Russian cities after a Moscow court sentenced opposition politician Alexey Navalny to two years and eight months in prison. In the Russian capital, the police response was violent and upwards of a thousand people were detained. Among them was 21-year-old Alyona Kitayeva, who later reported being assaulted and threatened with electroshocks while in police custody. Since then, other detainees have come forward describing similar abuse and intimidation at the hands of the Moscow police.

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