Russia rejects Western criticism over Navalny's prison term

Russian authorities have shrugged off protests against the jailing of top Kremlin foe Alexei Navalny and rejected Western criticism as “hysterics” as activists reported more than 1,400 new arrests in the ongoing crackdown on protests

APTOPIX Russia Navalny
APTOPIX Russia Navalny

Russian authorities on Wednesday shrugged off the massive rallies against the jailing of top Kremlin foe Alexei Navalny and rejected Western criticism as “hysterics” as activists reported more than 1,400 new arrests in the crackdown on protesters.

A Moscow court on Tuesday ordered Navalny to prison for two years and eight months, finding that he violated the terms of his probation while recuperating in Germany from a nerve-agent poisoning. The ruling immediately ignited new protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg that followed massive rallies over the past two weekends.

Speaking in court, Navalny denounced the accusations against him as fabricated and driven by President Vladimir Putin’s “fear and hatred,” saying that the Russian leader will go down in history as a “poisoner.”

Asked to comment on Navalny's speech, which was shared widely on Russian social media platforms, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded that it's not up to him to determine Putin's place in history. Like Putin, Peskov avoids mentioning Navalny by name.

Navalny, a 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner who is Putin's most determined political foe, was arrested Jan. 17 upon returning from his five-month convalescence in Germany from the poisoning which he has blamed on the Kremlin. Russian authorities deny any involvement and claim they have no proof that he was poisoned despite tests by several European labs.

The prison sentence for Navalny and Russia's tough police response to peaceful protests drew harsh criticism from the United States and European Union nations.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Moscow to immediately free Navalny and those who were detained during protests.

“Even as we work with Russia to advance U.S. interests, we will coordinate closely with our allies and partners to hold Russia accountable for failing to uphold the rights of its citizens,” he said.

French President Emmanuel Macron called Navalny’s conviction “unacceptable” and called for his immediate release.

“A political disagreement is never a crime,” Macron. "The respect of human rights, like that of democratic freedom, is not negotiable.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert on Wednesday reiterated the German leader’s call for Navalny's immediate release and an end to the police crackdown against anti-government protesters.

Seibert told reporters that the Moscow court’s ruling “was far from the principles of rule of law,” noting that it was based on Navalny's earlier conviction, which the European Court of Human Rights had deemed “arbitrary” and a breach of Navalny’s rights to a fair trial.

“The German government condemns this systematic use of violence against peaceful protesters,” he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday rejected the Western demands as “arrogant and improper,” saying that Moscow will not be moved by Western “hysterics.” He defended the Russian police response to protests as much milder than some police action against demonstrators in Western countries.

More than 1,400 people were detained, about 1,170 in Moscow and more than 250 in St. Petersburg, when demonstrators took to the streets to protest the court's order Tuesday to send Navalny to prison, according to the independent OVD-INFO group that documents arrests.

Police brutally beat many peaceful protesters and used tasers against some in a show of force apparently intended to intimidate the opposition.

__

Angela Charlton in Paris and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in