Putin heaps fresh humiliation on jailed Alexei Navalny by putting him on trial for calling WW2 veteran ally of President a ‘corrupt lackey’
- Alexei Navalny hauled back to court in Moscow today on defamation charge
- He is accused of calling a 94-year-old Second World War veteran who appeared in pro-Putin video a ‘traitor and a corrupt lackey’
- Prosecutors asked for another three and a half years in jail for the Kremlin critic
- Navalny was jailed for almost three years this month for violating his parole
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has returned to court accused of defaming a 94-year-old Second World War veteran who appeared in a pro-Putin video.
Navalny is accused of calling the veteran – Ignat Artemenko – a ‘traitor and corrupt lackey’ while criticising the video, which promoted changes to Russia’s constitution that allowed Putin to remain leader for life.
The 44-year-old, who was jailed for almost three years earlier this month for parole violations, has described the charges against him as politically motivated.
Alexei Navalny appeared in court in Moscow today charged with defaming a 94-year-old Second World War veteran who appeared in a pro-Putin video
Police officers dressed in riot gear stood guard outside the court, as prosecutors asked the judge to jail Navalny for an additional three and a half years
During Tuesday’s hearing, prosecutors asked that Navalny be jailed for another three and a half years or else face a fine of £9,300.
Navalny accuses authorities of using the slander charges to smear his reputation.
Veterans of what Moscow calls the Great Patriotic War are revered by most Russians and criticism of them is regarded as socially unacceptable and insulting.
Navalny’s lawyers have argued that he should not serve jail time because his alleged offence was committed before the law was changed to make it a jailable offence.
It remains to be seen whether the judge in the case will agree with that analysis.
The trial comes after Navalny, Putin’s fiercest critic, survived being poisoned with Novichok in August last year in what he has called a state-sanctioned assassination.
He was taken to Germany in a coma after collapsing on board a plane, but recovered and returned to Russia in January this year.
Police met his aircraft at the airport in Moscow and arrested him for parole violations relating to a 2014 corruption charge.
Navalny was accused of failing to check in with his probation officers, despite being seriously ill in hospital.
He was subsequently jailed for two years and eight months, sparking mass protests in Russia that were met with a brutal police response.
More than 1,000 people were arrested on the first day of protests alone, with police seen using batons and pepper spray on the crowds.
Police subsequently rounded up Navalny’s allies including wife Yulia, who was arrested at a rally before being released. She has now left the country for Germany.
Protests continued for several weeks after Navlany’s jailing, but his supporters now say demonstrations have been paused until the Spring.
The United States, Britain, Germany and the EU have urged Moscow to immediately free Navalny and condemned Russia’s repression of protests.
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