Court commutes suspended opposition leader’s sentence to a real prison term
MOSCOW – Clashes broke out in central Moscow between police and demonstrators who had come to express opposition politician Alexei Navalny’s three-and-a-half-year prison sentence. A total of 1,145 people were detained.
In St. Petersburg, 246 people were detained. Police detained people in Izhevsk, Omsk, Chelyabinsk, and also in Ufa, Kirov, Cheboksary, Mytishchi, and Krasnodar.
According to OVD-Info, the total number of people detained in Russia since the Navalny verdict was 1,408.
Police and Rosgvard units, as well as special equipment, were brought to Manezhnaya Square in Moscow on Tuesday night.
Pushkin Square was cordoned off with metal fences and surrounded by a cordon.
Metro stations “Ohotny Ryad,” “Revolution Square,” “Alexander Garden,” and “Teatralnaya” were closed for entry and exit. Mobile Internet was disabled in these areas.
Shortly before that, Alexei Navalny’s campaign headquarters had called on all of the opposition leader’s supporters to march to Manezhnaya Square in the center of Moscow, to protest against his being sent to prison.
By 11 p.m. Moscow time at least fifty people had been detained. There were already several thousand protesters, according to eyewitnesses. Cars passing through downtown streets often honked their horns.
Earlier Tuesday, a court sentenced Navalny to three and a half years in prison, despite international criticism and public domestic outcry over sending one of the Kremlin’s most vocal critics to jail.
Given that the opposition figure spent ten months under house arrest during the previous phase of the trial, this verdict means that Navalny will spend the next two years and eight months in prison.
The court ruled that Navalny violated the probation rules to which he was sentenced in 2014 by failing to notify the FSIN authorities of his whereabouts when he was evacuated to Berlin for treatment after being poisoned, which nearly proved fatal.
People who managed to get close to the courthouse where the verdict was read had to stand in nearby parks or wander behind police cordons to see the building.
“We came here a long time ago, but as soon as a few people gathered, the police drove us away,” said Natasha, 55, who teaches at a local college.
“It’s only going to outrage people. We can all see what’s going on. It’s a political decision,” said Dmitri, a 24-year-old shopkeeper.
Among the detainees, despite the documents they had, were several journalists from leading Russian media outlets.
They joined the roughly 10,000 people detained in the crackdown on nationwide protests in support of Navalny over the past two weeks.
But while Navalny’s trial was still going on, there were signs that Moscow’s detention centers were overcrowded.
On Tuesday morning, a group of protesters in Moscow recorded a video message from an overcrowded police bus, which they said they had been in since they were arrested 40 hours earlier.
They complained about the lack of food and water and no access to toilets.
Human rights activists said that similar complaints of poor detention were received from TDFs throughout the city.
Navalny was detained in January at Moscow airport on his arrival from Germany, where he had spent almost five months after being poisoned during a trip to Siberia last August.
European medical experts later determined that the politician had been poisoned with the military nerve agent Novichok, first produced in the Soviet Union.
Navalny claims he was poisoned by the FSB on orders from President Vladimir Putin.