Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, charged with violating the terms of a 2014 suspended sentence for embezzlement, stands inside a glass cell during a court hearing in Moscow on February 2, 2021.
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, charged with violating the terms of a 2014 suspended sentence for embezzlement, stands inside a glass cell during a court hearing in Moscow on February 2, 2021.
AFP

Moscow: A Moscow court on Tuesday sent Russian President Vladimir Putin's biggest critic Alexey Navalny to prison for two-and-a-half years.

CNN reported the verdict was announced after a heated hearing in which the Kremlin critic ridiculed claims he broke his parole conditions while in a coma and denounced Russia's leader as "Putin the poisoner."

The Putin critic was previously handed a three-and-a-half-year suspended sentence in the 2014 case along with five years of probation. He had to spend five months in Germany recovering from Novichok poisoning before his return to Moscow on January 17.

Navalny blamed the attack on the President and the Russian security services -- accusations that were denied by the Kremlin repeatedly. Navalny has been arrested and detained several times but had until now avoided lengthy sentences.

CNN further reported that the opposition leader has been arrested and detained several times but had until now avoided lengthy sentences. While Navalny was recovering in Germany, Russian authorities "had repeatedly threatened to jail him if he returned home." The opposition leader had ridiculed allegations that he could have better informed parole officers of his whereabouts while comatose, repeatedly being told by the judge to stop speaking and to the objections of prosecutors.

"Can you explain to me how else I was supposed to fulfill the terms of my probation and notify where I am?" he said from his glass enclosure as quoted by CNN.

A prison service representative responded by asking why he had not provided documents to explain the serious reasons that prevented him from showing up for inspections.

"Coma?" Navalny shot back. "Why are you sitting here and telling the court you didn't know where I was? I fell into a coma, then I was in the ICU, then in rehabilitation. I contacted my lawyer to send you a notice. You had the address, my contact details. What else could I have done to inform you?" he said.

The Kremlin critic said further, "The President of our country said live on air he let me go to get treatment in Germany and you didn't know that too?" Navalny described Putin as a "little thieving man in his bunker" who "doesn't want me to set foot on the ground in Russia", further adding, "The reason for this is the hatred and fear of one person who is hiding in the bunker. I've offended him so deeply by the fact that I've survived." When a prosecutor tried to object, Navalny snapped back: "I don't need your objections." "He can pretend he is this big politician, the world leader, but now my main offense to him is that he will go down in history as Putin the Poisoner. There was Alexander the Liberator and Yaroslav the Wise, and there will be Vladimir the Poisoner of Underpants... He is not engaging in geopolitics, he holds meetings on how to smear underwear with chemical weapons," Navalny added.

Sputnik reported that Navalny's legal team has 10 days to appeal the ruling.

A Moscow court has placed Kira Yarmysh, the spokeswoman of Navalny, under house arrest for violating sanitary regulations at the unauthorized demonstrations, a court spokesperson told Sputnik.

Last week, a Moscow court placed several of Navalny's close allies, including his top associate Lyubov Sobol, coordinator of his team in Moscow Oleg Stepanov, Alexey's brother Oleg Navalny and Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina, under house arrest for violating sanitary rules by calling for protests during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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