Kremlin critic Navalny looks thin and drained in video-link court appearance

Lawrence Kim
April 29, 2021

The hearing on Thursday was on Navalny's appeal of his February conviction on defamation charges for insulting a Russian World War II veteran.

A transformed Alexei Navalny appeared in court in Moscow on Thursday for the first time since launching a hunger strike. His head was shaven clean, and he wore a prison uniform and glasses.

Russian authorities have denied accusations by Navalny, and the US and its allies, that the government - even Putin himself - was behind the poisoning attack on the president's chief domestic opponent. He told her he is now eating several spoons of porridge each day - part of winding down his hunger strike.

Meanwhile, Mr Navalny's top ally Leonid Volkov announced the shutdown of the entire network of dozens of opposition headquarters.

"Seventy-two suits you better than 74", Yulia responded with a smile.

"Unfortunately, it is impossible to work in these conditions".

He said it was "impossible" for them to exist in their current form as authorities move to label Mr Navalny's organisation as "extremist", putting it in the same category as groups such as al-Qaeda and raising the prospect of lengthy jail terms for supporters. "We're officially dismantling the network of Navalny's headquarters", Mr Volkov said on the messaging app Telegram. The politician is now in prison, and dozens of his aides and associates have been under arrest, targeted for raids by law enforcement, or facing criminal charges.

See more stories on Insider's business page. Shortly after his emotional speech, the judge rejected the appeal.

It was not immediately clear how the court ruling will affect Navalny's "Smart Voting" strategy that seeks to unseat United Russia party incumbents in September by rallying support behind the most promising challenger.

The regional network was founded during Navalny's presidential campaign in 2018, although the opposition figure was barred from running.

They were also instrumental in organizing nationwide protests in his support and implementing the Smart Voting strategy - a project created to promote candidates who are most likely to defeat those from the Kremlin's dominant United Russia party in various elections. "Already millions of people are screaming about it because it is so obvious", Navalny said in his remarks to the court on Thursday, referring to Putin. "You will help them, and they will succeed", he said.

Navalny was arrested in January after returning to Russian Federation from Germany, where he had spent months recovering from a poisoning attack that he says was orchestrated by President Vladimir Putin.

His arrest triggered protests across Russian Federation that proved to be the biggest show of defiance in years.

The Kremlin critic was sentenced earlier this year to two and a half years in prison for violating the terms of a previous suspended sentence.

The sentence stemmed from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that Mr Navalny has characterszed as politically motivated.

Also on Thursday, authorities launched a criminal case against Mr Navalny, Mr Volkov and another aide, Ivan Zhdanov, on suspicion of opening an organisation that "endangers citizens and their rights". The case is unrelated to the parole violations conviction for which the opposition leader is now serving a three-year sentence in a prison colony.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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