MOSCOW: Russia has brought fresh charges against Alexei Navalny, the country’s top opposition politician already serving a 19-year sentence, he said today, as Moscow intensifies its crackdown on dissent amid the Ukraine offensive.
Navalny galvanised huge nationwide protests in Russia before he was jailed in 2021 on fraud charges after returning from Germany, where he was recovering from a poison attack that he and independent investigators say was carried out by the Russian state.
In August his initial sentence of nine years was more than doubled to 19 years for “extremism”, and a court also ruled to send him to a harsher “special regime” facility.
Authorities have now accused him of vandalism, which could add up to another three years to his sentence, Navalny said, citing a letter he had received from Russia’s Investigative Committee in prison.
Since launching its military offensive on Ukraine last February, the Kremlin has escalated its crackdown against Navalny, who opposes Russia’s offensive, his allies and the Russian opposition more broadly.
“They really initiate a new criminal case against me every three months,” Navalny said on social media.
“Never has an inmate, sitting in solitary confinement for more than a year, had such a rich social and political life,” he quipped, in his typically sarcastic tone.
Prison officers often send Navalny to a solitary punishment cell – where he has spent at least 266 days.
Navalny, who has complained of a series of health complications and has massively lost weight in prison, communicates with the outside world through his lawyers.
Three of them were arrested in October, further cementing the campaign against his team that has intensified since Moscow launched its assault on Ukraine last February.
Most high profile activists and opposition figures have fled the country or been sentenced to years in prison.
And thousands of ordinary Russians have been detained, fined or jailed for protesting the offensive.