Russia’s Opposition Leader Added Nine More Years in Jail~US calls it a Sham

The United States and European Union have slammed a new sentence handed down to jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny, calling it a “sham” and another example of Russia’s widening crackdown on dissenting voices amid its invasion of Ukraine.

A Russian court on Tuesday sentenced Navalny to nine additional years in a maximum-security prison on fraud and contempt of court charges, as well as a fine of 1.2 million roubles ($11,500).

“The court’s sham ruling is the latest in a series of attempts to silence Navalny,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Tuesday afternoon.

“This disturbing decision … is another example of the Russian government’s widening crackdown on dissent and freedom of expression, which is intended to hide the Kremlin’s brutal war, and unprovoked war against Ukraine.”

The EU also condemned the ruling as “politically motivated”.

“The European Union deplores the systematic crackdown on civil society, independent media, individual journalists and human rights defenders in Russia,” the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said in a statement. “We reiterate our call on the Russian authorities for his immediate and unconditional release.”

The new sentence comes amid heightened tensions between Moscow and Western nations, which have condemned and slapped a series of biting sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

It also follows a year-long crackdown by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Navalny’s supporters, other opposition activists and independent journalists in which authorities appear eager to stifle all dissent.

Navalny is already serving two-and-a-half years in a penal colony east of Moscow for a parole violation. The new trial was held in a makeshift courtroom at the facility.

His new conviction is on charges of embezzling money that he and his foundation raised over the years and of insulting a judge during a previous trial. Navalny, who will appeal the ruling, has rejected the allegations as politically motivated.

Earlier this month, Navalny urged Russians to hold daily protests against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has decimated Ukrainian cities and forced more than 3.5 million people to flee the country.

“I am urging everyone to take to the streets and fight for peace,” he said in statements posted on Facebook and Twitter on March 2, urging people not to be afraid of going to prison. “If, to prevent war, we need to fill up the jails and police vans, we will fill up the jails and police vans.”

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