Person of the Week: Aleksei Navalny sentenced to two years eight months in prison

Week-ending 5 February 2021

On 2 February 2021 Moscow’s Simonovsky district court sentenced Aleksei Navalny to two years and eight months in prison at the request of the Federal Penitentiary Service which alleged that Navalny had broken the conditions of a 2014 suspended sentence handed down in the Yves Rocher case. In 2017 the European Court of Human Rights found Russian courts had handed down “arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable” decisions in the case in violation of Article 6 of the European Convention (fair trial) and Article 7 (no punishment without law). As a result of the trial, Oleg Navalny had been imprisoned from 3.5 years and his brother Aleksei was given a suspended sentence. The ECtHR ruled Russia pay a total of nearly 76,000 euros and 460,000 roubles to the brothers. Later in the week, Navalny was on trial again on charges of having ‘slandered’ a war veteran who had taken part in the promotional video in support of last year’s constitutional amendments. Navalny said the charges were fabricated. On 1 February 2021 the European Court of Human Rights annouced that it had communicated Navalny’s application regarding his poisoning.


Aleksei Navalny’s speech at his trial on 2 February 2021 can be read here on Rights in Russia.

Amnesty International, 2 February 2021: A court in Moscow has sentenced opposition activist and Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny to two years and eight months in prison, amid a brutal crackdown on peaceful protests which saw at least 5,021 people detained on 31 January alone. The Simonovsky District Court granted a motion put forward by the Federal Penitentiary Service to replace Aleksei Navalny’s suspended sentence with jail time, and he will be held at a penal colony. “In their vendetta against Aleksei Navalny and his supporters, the Russian authorities have shredded any remaining veneer of justice and respect for human rights. The politically motivated sentencing of Aleksei Navalny shows the true face of the Russian authorities, who seem intent on locking up anyone who dares to speak out against their abuses and repression of human rights,” said Natalya Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director.

Human Rights Watch, 2 February 2021: A Moscow court ruled today that Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny had violated the terms of his probation and sent him to prison for 3.5 years. The court stated that since he’s already served a year under house arrest in 2014, he’ll have to serve 2.5 years behind bars. While not a surprise, the ruling is monstrously unjust, and he should be immediately freed. In his closing speech in court today Navalny, condemned the proceedings as unlawful, saying authorities aimed to “jail one person to intimidate millions.” The Russian Penitentiary Service claims Navalny failed to report to the probation service between August 2020 and January 2021. In August, Navalny was nearly fatally poisoned in an attack independent investigators allege was organized and executed by Federal Security Service operatives. He was evacuated to Germany in a coma, recovered there and returned to Russia on January 17 to face widely anticipated arrest upon arrival.

The Guardian, 3 February 2021: 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.

RFE/RL, 1 February 2021: The European Court of Human Rights on February 1 announced it has informed Russia that it will consider a complaint filed to the court by the opposition politician Aleksei Navalny. Navalny’s legal team argues Russia violated his right to life under the European Convention on Human Rights by refusing to open a criminal case into his poisoning with a Soviet-era nerve agent last August. The announcement comes a day after Russia witnessed more nationwide rallies demanding Navalny’s release.

RFE/RL, 17 October 2017: The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny and his brother Oleg were unfairly convicted of financial crimes at trial in the so-called Yves Rocher case in 2014. In an October 17 ruling, the ECHR said that Russian courts handed down “arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable” decisions in the case, which led to the imprisonment of Oleg Navalny and a suspended sentence for his better-known brother Aleksei. The Strasbourg-based court ordered Russia to pay a combined total of nearly 76,000 euros ($89,000) and 460,000 rubles ($8,000) to the brothers.

RFE/RL, 31 January 2021: A court in Russia has ordered Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny’s brother, Oleg, to be held in pretrial detention until March 23. The Tverskoi district court announced the ruling on January 29, a day after Oleg Navalny had been arrested by police on a charge of breaking coronavirus restrictions.

RFE/RL, 5 February 2021: Jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny has accused Russian officials of “fabricating” a slander case against him for comments he wrote on Twitter about several people who appeared in a pro-Kremlin video. Navalny was in court on February 5 to face charges he slandered a World War II veteran who took part in the promotional video in support of last year’s constitutional amendments that cleared the way for President Vladimir Putin to run for two more terms in office after 2024 if he wants. Navalny was charged after describing the veteran, Ignat Artyomenko, and others in the video as “the shame of the country” and “traitors” on Twitter in June 2020. “I understand very well how this case arose, why it was fabricated…the whole thing was invented,” Navalny told the court.

The Moscow Times, 5 February 2021: Alexei Navalny’s supporters will stop staging protests demanding his release until at least this spring, a key aide of the imprisoned Kremlin critic said Thursday. Leonid Volkov, head of Navalny’s regional network of campaign-style offices, announced he would not be calling supporters to take to the streets for a third successive weekend of protests across Russia, citing the forceful police crackdowns and concerns more arrests would hamper the organization’s plans to campaign ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for September. “If we go out every week, thousands more will be detained, and hundreds more beaten,” Volkov said in a live broadcast on Navalny’s YouTube channel. “The work of the regional headquarters will be paralyzed and it will be impossible to work on elections. This is not what Alexei wants from us. Alexei has asked us to concentrate on this autumn,” when State Duma elections will be held.

RFE/RL, 5 February 2021: After two weeks of police beatings, thousands of arrests, and a wave of criminal prosecutions whose reach is only just becoming apparent, allies of imprisoned Kremlin foe Aleksei Navalny have called an end to the anti-government protests they incited over the course of three consecutive weeks. “If we continue to go out each week, we’ll continue to get thousands arrested and hundreds beaten,” Leonid Volkov, a top Navalny aide, told supporters in a YouTube video announcing the decision. “That’s not what we want, and that’s not what Aleksei asks of us.” The protests ended the day Navalny was sentenced to over 2 1/2 years in prison on February 2, and Volkov said his allies would continue to fight for his release — prioritizing “foreign policy methods,” including pressuring Western leaders to impose sanctions, while not shirking from street rallies down the line. “We won’t run out of reasons, and we won’t run out of demands,” he said. But the statement, which came as hundreds of protesters languish in squalid jails awaiting trial, immediately prompted indignation. Navalny supporters took to social media to voice their anger over what some perceived as capitulation.

RFE/RL, 5 February 2021: A top doctor at the hospital in Omsk where opposition politician Aleksei Navalny was treated immediately after his poisoning last summer has died, the hospital and regional Health Ministry said on February 4. Sergei Maksimishin, who was the deputy chief physician for anesthesiology and resuscitation at Omsk emergency hospital No. 1, died in his ward from a heart attack, the press service of the regional Health Ministry told Open Media. He was 55. Navalny was treated in the same intensive care unit after he was poisoned in August. The hospital said Maksimishin “suddenly passed away,” according to a statement quoted by CNN. It did not provide the cause of death. Navalny, 44, was initially admitted to the acute poisoning unit of Omsk emergency hospital No. 1 on August 20 after he became ill on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow.

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