Navalny associate jailed for more than 7 years by Russian court: ‘Another hostage in prison’

Sentence for Lilia Chanysheva comes as Kremlin intensifies a crackdown on dissent while it wages war in Ukraine – and sparks outrage from opposition figures

Dasha Litvinova
Wednesday 14 June 2023 13:27 BST
Lilia Chanysheva makes a heart gesture as she is standing in a cage during the court hearing
Lilia Chanysheva makes a heart gesture as she is standing in a cage during the court hearing (AP)

An associate of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison on “extremism” charges – the latest verdict in a crackdown on dissent by the Kremlin as it wages war in Ukraine

Lilia Chanysheva who used to head Navalny's office in the Russian region of Bashkortostan, was found guilty of calling for extremism, forming an extremist group and founding an organization that violates rights.

Navalny aide Lyubov Sobol called it a political verdict, saying President Vladimir Putin had "put one more hostage in a penal colony". Navalny's spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said Chanysheva had been punished for fighting for the future of her country.

"This sentence is a crime, and all those involved in fabricating this case will be punished sooner or later," Yarmysh wrote on Twitter.

Chanysheva has been in detention for the past year and a half. The charges against Chanysheva, who was arrested in November 2021, stem from a court ruling earlier that year that designated Navalny's Foundation for Fighting Corruption and his regional offices as extremist organisations.

In addition to the prison sentence, Chanysheva was fined 400,000 rubles (about £3,800). Her trial was conducted behind closed doors and she has maintained her innocence, rejecting the charges as politically motivated.

In her closing speech to the court last month, she said her case was part of a wider campaign by Putin to root out dissent in Russia.

"But Putin is corruption, low wages and pensions, a falling economy and rising prices. Putin is war! And this has already affected everyone!" she said.

The 41-year-old appealed to the judge to not issue the 12-year sentence requested by prosecutors. "If you put me in jail for 12 years, I will not have time to give birth to a child. Give me a chance to be a mother," she said.

Navalny, Putin's best-known opponent, is serving sentences totalling 11-and-a-half years in a penal colony on fraud and other charges that he says were trumped up to silence him. He faces further "extremism" charges that could extend his term by decades.

Human rights groups and Western governments view Navalny as a political prisoner. The Kremlin denies that, routinely refusing to comment on his case and referring questions about him to the courts and the prison service.

Navalny is facing a new trial on extremism charges that could keep him in prison for decades. It is due to begin next week at a maximum-security prison 250 kilometers (150 miles) east of Moscow where the 47-year-old politician is already serving time on two different convictions.

Navalny was arrested in January 2021 upon returning to Moscow after recuperating in Germany from nerve-agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin. He initially received a 2{-year prison sentence for a parole violation. Last year, he was sentenced to a nine-year term on fraud and contempt of court charges.

The new charges against Navalny relate to the activities of his anti-corruption foundation and statements by his top associates. His allies said the charges retroactively criminalise all the activities of Navalny's foundation since its creation in 2011.

The Kremlin's crackdown against opposition activists, independent journalists and government critics has intensified since it sent troops into Ukraine. Earlier in the week, a court in Moscow sentenced a man who threw gasoline bombs at two police vans in the Russian capital last year to six years in prison. Vitaly Koltsov has said he did it to show his "resentment" of a police van "as a symbol of infringement on freedoms."

Associated Press

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