A Moscow court sent Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, a strong critic of Putin, to prison for more than two and a half years on February 2. The opposition has blamed President Vladimir Putin for personal hatred and fear of Navalny, for the authoritative step.
The court harshly handed Navalny a three-and-a-half-year sentence. This incited huge outrage from protesters, who took to streets to show their support for Navalny. On the contrary, Navalny’s lawyer stated that the anti-corruption blogger would actually serve two years and eight months in jail because of time already spent under house arrest. His lawyers said they would appeal to the court on the following ground.
The decision followed united, nationwide protests calling for Navalny’s release. According to various reports, hundreds of protesters took to street and the police has been reported to detain some of them. The crowd could be heard chanting, “Putin is a thief!” and “Putin is a poisoner!”
According to NGO OVD Info, it has been reported that the Russian police arrested more than 1,050 people during the rallies. The organization, which specializes in monitoring protests, melancholically stated that most of the arrests happened in Moscow, where rallies were held in the evening immediately after the court handed Navalny his sentence.
Earlier in the day, riot police had been reported to have detained around 70 of Navalny’s supporters outside the court. But the OVD-Info monitoring group later reported 503 arrests across Moscow.
Navalny, one of Putin’s most prominent critics, was arrested on January 17 on charges of parole violations after returning from Germany where he had been recovering from being poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent. Navalny suspected Putin for his possible role in poisoning him. This comes after the lab tests which reported that the poison used to attack Navalny was so lethal that it could only have been prepared in a lab. This indicates Putin’s possible role in the fatal attack as the labs are state owned.
Navalny has also stated that Russian state security agents had put the poison in his underpants, something the Kremlin denied.
Navalny has been applauded for his fiery courage in the court as in his blazing speech , he alleged that he was going to be jailed because of Putin’s concerns about him as a political rival. This suggestion was laughed off by Kremlin, referring to Navalny as a marginal figure without wide popular support.
It is no news that Putin, 68, has dominated Russian politics since 2000 and could rule until 2036. This has been made possible due to constitutional changes approved in a referendum in 2020.
Navalny had recently taken the road of bitter criticism of Vladimir Putin. He had exposed widespread corruption under Putin and had made claims that Putin had accumulated immense corrupt wealth which he has used to build big mansions. Such claims were refuted by Putin ,who laughed off the criticism as ‘boring’. Many believed that Navalny had this coming.
With growing international pressure and widespread support for Navalny in Russia, Russian administration is having an arduous time suppressing other critic. What course of action will Putin opt for in future is something we’ll have to wait and see.