Alexei Navalni, 44, the main opponent of President Vladimir Putin, returned to denounce the Russian justice system on Thursday (29), in his first video appearance since a hunger strike ended last week after 24 days.
The activist, whose statements and network of supporters caused headaches in the Kremlin, lost 22 kg during this period, according to one of his lawyers. “Yesterday they took me to the bathroom. I had a mirror, I looked at myself: I’m a horrible skeleton,” Navalni said in an audio recording obtained by broadcaster Dojd.
On Thursday, he took part in an audience video in the case where he is accused of defaming a Russian World War II veteran. Visibly slimmer, with a shaved head and looking exhausted, Navalni maintained his provocative tone and demanded that prosecutors accusing him be brought to criminal justice.
He has been in prison since January, officially accused of violating his probation terms by leaving the country, even though the release was for medical reasons – he was in a coma.
In February, however, Navalni was convicted of defaming a Russian serviceman who fought in World War II and who took part in a video in support of constitutional reforms last year – a referendum authorized the change. which gave Putin the right to run for more than two terms in the Kremlin and stay in power until 2036.
Navalni had described the people appearing in the promotional material as traitors and corrupt lackeys, but he defended himself by saying the comments were not specifically directed at the veteran – in Russia it is a crime to offend those who are considered war heroes.
The growing pressure on Navalni, in addition to leading to his arrest, also led to hundreds of arrests of people who participated in protests against the Putin government and in police operations at the headquarters of organizations linked to him. and even at the homes of its employees. , which the opposition denounces as judicial persecution in order to silence it.
On Thursday, Leonid Volkov, one of Navalni’s main allies, posted a video on YouTube announcing the suspension of the activities of the regional offices of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK, in the acronym in Russian), founded by the opponent.
“We are officially dissolving the Alexei Navalni network,” Volkov said, indicating however that some offices of other groups linked to the Kremlin opponent will continue their activities independently.
The disbandment of the organizations follows a court ruling that on Monday (26) determined the suspension based on a process in which prosecutors are calling for the groups to be banned for extremism. The Russian judiciary is nominally independent, but decisions are often in line with the interests of the Kremlin.
The term “extremism” has a very broad definition in Russian law and allows authorities to fight against opposition organizations, racist or terrorist factions such as the Islamic State, as well as religious groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses. .
The end of FBK and other groups linked to Navalni is not yet certain, as the court, in theory, is still analyzing the case for a final decision. If convicted, organizations will be banned from participating in elections, organizing protests or posting content on the Internet. In addition, the authorities will have the legal power to arrest their employees and freeze their bank accounts.
“Maintaining the work of the Navalni network in its current form is impossible: it would immediately lead to criminal convictions for those who work at headquarters, who collaborate with them and for those who help them,” Volkov said.
Still according to his allies, Navalni is also the target of a new criminal case, according to which he has created a non-profit organization that violates the rights of Russian citizens.
The FBK is known to denounce cases of corruption of the Russian political elite. One of the organization’s productions accuses Putin of owning a luxurious palace on the shores of the Black Sea. The video posted in January 2020 had more than 11 million views on YouTube and forced Putin to deny the accusation.
Blogger and lawyer, Navalni appeared in the public arena during protests against Putin in 2012. The following year, he ran for mayor in Moscow and won 27% of the vote. But it was in 2017 that he appeared to the world, when he ordered via the Internet the call for a day of protests that united thousands of people in the streets. Due to legal proceedings, he was not allowed to appear against Putin in 2018.
He then moved on to another tactic: to favor any candidacy at the regional level as opposed to United Russia, the party in power. He achieved symbolic successes in the local elections of 2019 and 2020, and his return to Russia was seen as preparation for the shock of the parliamentary elections in September. Now, with him in prison, his wife, Iulia Navalnaia, is expected to rise to prominence in the face of Putin.
Navalni was poisoned in August 2020 and directly accused Putin of the assassination attempt. He was treated in Berlin, where doctors said they found traces of Novichok, a famous poison used by the Russian secret service, on his body.
Next, Navalni released the recording of a joke he made to one of the FSB (Federal Security Service, successor to the KGB) agents identified as the perpetrators of the attack – in him, the spy Believes to speak to a superior and admits to putting poison in the activist man’s underwear in a hotel room. The Kremlin denies any involvement, and Putin joked that if Russia had wanted to kill Navalni, it would have done so.
The opponent was arrested in January, returning to Russia after being treated in Germany for poisoning. The activist is formally accused of violating the conditions of his probation by leaving the country, even though the release occurred for medical reasons – he was in a coma.
Navalni was sentenced to jail for commuted fraud in 2014, in a trial he calls judicial harassment. Russian courts upheld the anti-corruption activist’s verdict last month. In total, he was sentenced to three and a half years in prison, of which he has already served ten months at home.
THE NAVALNI CASE
2012 Alexei Navalni, blogger and lawyer, appears in the public arena during protests against Russian President Vladimir Putin
2013 Moscow mayoral candidates and win 27% of the vote; Serguei Sobianin was elected with 51.37% of the vote
2017 The opponent gains worldwide notoriety by ordering via the Internet the call for a day of demonstrations which brought thousands of people to the streets of Russia; country’s electoral commission prevents Navalni from running against Putin in elections the following year after being convicted in 2013 of embezzlement in a province
20.ago.20 Navalni is admitted to a Siberian hospital for being ill on a flight to Moscow and is in a coma; his spokesperson says he was poisoned, but the head of the medical center says the diagnosis is metabolic disease caused by hypoglycemia
22.ago.20 After the pressure, the medics withdraw and the opponent is transferred to a hospital in Berlin, Germany
24.ago.20 German doctors responsible for the treatment of Navalni confirm poisoning by a substance acting on the nervous system
2.set.20 Germany claims that the opposing leader was poisoned with Novichok, a group of neurological agents developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s and a substance in the same family of the poison identified by the United Kingdom in 2018, in the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal; Kremlin denies any involvement
7.set.20 Navalni comes out of induced coma, but still depends on help from life support
15.set.20 Opponent posts his first recovery photo on social media, in which he says he no longer needs breathing apparatus
23.set.20 Hospital leaves Navalni, who remains in Germany
17.Dec.20 On the charges, Putin said in a traditional annual press conference that if the Russian secret service wanted to poison the opposing leader, “they probably would have ended him.”
21. December 20 Navalni discloses the recording of a joke he addressed to one of the FSB (Federal Security Service, successor to the KGB) agents identified as the perpetrators of the attack in which the spy believed talking to a superior and admits to putting poison in the activist’s underwear in a hotel room
17.Jan.21 Opposition leader leaves Germany, returns to Russia and is arrested on landing at Moscow airport because his prolonged departure from the country violated his parole following a conviction for fraud with stay in 2014
23. January 21 Thousands of people take to the streets in Russia against the arrest of Navalni, in acts committed in a hundred cities which end up with at least 2,500 detainees
31. January 21. 5,600 other pro-Navalni protesters arrested in new protests
2. January 21 Russian justice reactivates the 3.5-year sentence against Navalni for violation of parole; as he had already been in prison at home for 10 months after a first conviction, he will serve the remaining two years and eight months in a penal colony; hearing generates protests in the country and at least 1,200 are detained, according to an NGO
On February 21, Russia expels diplomats from Germany, Sweden and Poland for participating in protests in January against arrest of opposition leader
February 8, 21 Germany, Sweden and Poland react and also expel Russian diplomats from their countries
February 14 and 21 On Valentine’s Day in Russia, Navalni supporters organize candlelight protest acts
20. February 21 The opponent suffers a double legal defeat after the court dismissed the appeal against his arrest and found him guilty of defamation against a veteran of the Second World War, applying a fine of 850,000 rubles (R $ 61,800) for defamation
24. February 21 Navalni leaves the Moscow detention center to be transferred to a penal colony 200 km from the Russian capital; according to the Russian RIA news agency, he arrived at the scene four days later, on February 28.
12 Mar 21 The leader of the opposition is transferred to another penal colony, unbeknownst to the lawyers
25 March 21 Navalni accuses the guards of the penal colony located 100 km from Moscow of having deprived him of sleep at night, a practice which he assimilates to torture, and of having refused him access to adequate medical care.
March 31, 21 Opponent goes on hunger strike due to conditions of detention
17.abr.21 Doctors accompanying him remotely said he could go into cardiac arrest at any time, due to lack of nutrients in his body
19.Apr.21 Navalni is transferred to the hospital unit
23.Apr.21 Opponent ends hunger strike after 24 days
26.abr.21 Justice decides on suspension of activities of organizations linked to Navalni
29. April 21 Navalni makes his first video appearance after the end of the hunger strike, and his supporters announce the dissolution of organizations linked to the activist