Russian Court Upholds Prison Term for Putin Critic Navalny

The opposition leader is due to spend around 2½ years behind bars after his appeal was denied

Alexei Navalny appeared in court in Moscow on Saturday in a glass cage for defendants.

Photo: yuri kochetkov/Shutterstock

MOSCOW—A Russian court denied an appeal by Alexei Navalny, sealing an earlier ruling that would see the prominent Kremlin critic and anticorruption activist spend a lengthy sentence in a penal colony.

Mr. Navalny, whose detention in January sparked mass protests that mushroomed into a broader act of defiance against Russian President Vladimir Putin, was sentenced earlier this month for violating the conditions of a suspended sentence from 2014. Mr. Navalny was detained upon returning from Germany, where he spent months recovering from a poison attack that he blames on Mr. Putin. The Kremlin denies any involvement.

The rallies, which at one point saw over 40,000 people on the streets of Moscow and thousands more across the country, were met with a sweeping crackdown by the authorities, who detained more than 10,000. While Mr. Navalny’s allies have temporarily suspended large-scale protests until the spring, the protest wave has cemented his position as Mr. Putin’s most vocal critic and a potent threat to the Kremlin leader’s two-decade-old rule.

香蕉视频苹果下载At the hearing on Saturday, Mr. Navalny appeared inside a glass cage for defendants and flashed a “V” sign for victory. He rejected the notion that he was hiding from justice, saying that his whereabouts were publicly known, and he described the legal process as absurd.

“If I was hiding, I wouldn’t be standing here in this aquarium,” Mr. Navalny told the court.

He called on Russians to take action to make the country a better place. While his detention and treatment sparked the recent demonstrations, wider grievances over economic stagnation and falling living standards have driven many of the protesters to the streets.

香蕉视频苹果下载“You can say as much as you like that we have a high standard of living, but the country is poor, and everyone can see it,” Mr. Navalny said. “And sooner or later these people who want the truth will achieve their goal.”

“Russia should not only be free, but also happy,” he said.

Protesters gathered in Moscow’s Pushkin Square in January.

Photo: Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

Prosecutors have said that he failed to check in regularly with prison authorities on his earlier suspended sentence while he was recovering in Germany. The 3½-year sentence credits time Mr. Navalny served under house arrest, leaving him to spend around 2½ years behind bars.

The Saturday ruling temporarily removes Mr. Navalny from the public arena and could complicate his goal of unseating the ruling United Russia in parliamentary elections later this year.

香蕉视频苹果下载Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia has a pluralistic political arena and many oppose the authorities.

香蕉视频苹果下载“The Kremlin has many opponents. This is a normal political process,” Mr. Peskov said. “Political life is very rich and multifaceted.”

In a separate hearing Saturday, a court found Mr. Navalny guilty on charges of defaming a World War II veteran by calling him a traitor and fined the opposition leader the equivalent of around $11,500. Mr. Navalny has rejected the charges and described them as part of efforts to smear him.

The West has condemned Mr. Navalny’s imprisonment and is discussing possible new sanctions on Russia, adding another flashpoint in already fraught relations between Russia and the U.S. and Europe. The European Union in October sanctioned some of Russia’s top political figures with a travel ban and an asset freeze in response to the attack on Mr. Navalny.

Russia has dismissed U.S. and European criticism of the case and the protest crackdown as meddling in its internal affairs.

Earlier this week, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Mr. Navalny must be immediately released—a decision quickly dismissed by Russia’s justice ministry. The court in Moscow on Saturday also rejected the motion.

Write to Georgi Kantchev at georgi.kantchev@wsj.com

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