Decision to jail Kremlin critic likely to spur further protests and deepen a rift between Western powers and Russia.
A Russian court has sentenced Alexey Navalny to jail over alleged parole violations in an embezzlement case dating back to 2014, which the Kremlin opponent argues is politically motivated.
Tuesday’s ruling at the Simonovsky District Court in Moscow is likely to fuel more demonstrations in support of Navalny and deepen a rift between Russia and Western powers demanding the 44-year-old’s release.
No other information was immediately available.
The decision comes two weeks after Navalny was arrested on January 17 upon returning to Moscow from Berlin, where he spent five months recovering from an alleged nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Russian authorities reject the accusation.
Speaking from a glass cage in the courtroom during his hearing, Navalny attributed his arrest to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “fear and hatred,” saying the Russian leader will go down to history as a “poisoner.”
“I have deeply offended him simply by surviving the assassination attempt that he ordered,” he said.
“The aim of that hearing is to scare a great number of people,” Navalny said. “You can’t jail millions. You can’t jail the entire country.”
Russian police detained 311 people in Moscow ahead of the hearing, the OVD-Info protest monitoring group said.
Riot police were deployed in large numbers outside the court after Navalny’s allies called on the opposition politician’s supporters to gather outside in support.
Navalny’s detention has sparked nationwide protests against Putin. Tens of thousands of people defied a heavy police presence to fill the streets in towns and cities across Russia on Sunday for the second week running to demand the Kremlin critic’s release.
Western powers have meanwhile called on Russia to free Navalny, with some threatening fresh sanctions.
The Kremlin has dismissed concerns from the international community, saying the case is a domestic issue.
This is a breaking news story. More details to follow.