Russia rejects Western criticism over Navalny's prison term

Russia rejects Western criticism over Navalny's prison term

Russian police detained 112 people on Tuesday near a court in Moscow which had convened to consider jailing Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny for up to three and a half years, the OVD-Info protest monitoring group said.

As part of his suspended sentence, Navalny was expected to show up for checks with Russia's prison service (FSIN) twice a month until December 30, 2020.

In August, Navalny was almost fatally poisoned in an attack independent investigators allege was organized and executed by Federal Security Service operatives.

Alexei Navalny holds up a document in the Moscow City Court in Moscow, Russia. It asked the court to turn his 3 1/2-year suspended sentence into one that he must serve in prison, although he has spent about a year of it under house arrest that will be counted as time served.

An investigation by the Bellingcat website found that Mr. Navalny was trailed by a team of operatives from Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) - including poison and chemical weapon specialists - for at least three years before the August attack, beginning shortly after Mr. Navalny announced that he meant to challenge Mr. Putin for the presidency.

The BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Moscow said Mr Navalny greeted the news with a resigned shrug.

Strong global reaction to the sentence came quickly, with the Council of Europe saying the judgement "defied all credibility".

Joshua Yaffa, Moscow correspondent for The New Yorker, says that Navalny has been willing to change and adapt his views to court public opinion, including through his "flirtation" with Russian nationalism.

Last month, thousands of people had been detained during two days of protests across the country.

Police used similar tactics at a protest in Moscow Sunday, arresting random demonstrators as they made their way through the city on a march demanding Navalny's release.

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His detention sparked mass protests across Russian Federation and crackdowns by authorities.

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.

In his closing speech in court today Navalny, condemned the proceedings as unlawful, saying authorities aimed to "jail one person to intimidate millions".

Mr Putin denied owning the property and last week a billionaire businessman close to the Russian leader, Arkady Rotenberg, said he was the owner and was turning it into a hotel.

"Today's perverse ruling, targeting the victim of a poisoning rather than those responsible, shows Russian Federation is failing to meet the most basic commitments expected of any responsible member of the global community".

"A Russian citizen sentenced by Russian court in accordance with Russian laws. Recent events show that there are a lot of things for you to mend!", Russia's deputy United Nations ambassador Dmitry Polyansky said on Twitter.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova described the Western reaction as "disconnected from reality", adding: "There is no need to interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign state".

The Kremlin said on Tuesday it hopes the fate of jailed opposition Navalny would not affect Russia's ties with Europe.

"We are ready to patiently explain everything, but we aren't going to react to mentor-style statements or take them into account", Peskov told reporters.

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