Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny appeared in court this morning where he faces up to three-and-a-half years in jail for ‘violating probation.’
Dozens of his supporters were rounded up by riot police outside the gates of the Moscow court and another 20 were detained at a nearby metro station.
Only his wife Yulia was allowed to pass through the police cordon.
Navalny, 44, a staunch critic of Vladimir Putin, was arrested on January 17 after returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from Novichok poisoning which he blames on the Kremlin.
Russian authorities deny the charge and claim, despite tests by several European labs, that they have no proof he was poisoned.
Yulia Navalnaya, 44, the wife of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, walks into the Simonovsky District Court in Moscow on Tuesday morning
A Navalny supporter is hauled into a police van by heavily armoured riot police
Riot police lead a Navalny supporter towards a waiting van this morning
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks to the media prior to a court session in Moscow in August 2019
Navalny is seen through the bars of a prison van as he arrives at the Simonovsky District Court in Moscow
Russia’s penitentiary service alleges that Navalny violated the probation conditions of his suspended sentence from a 2014 money-laundering conviction that he has rejected as politically motivated.
It has asked the Simonovsky District Court in Moscow to turn his three-and-a-half year suspended sentence into one that he must serve in prison.
Navalny and his lawyers have argued that while he recovering in Germany from the poisoning, he could not register with Russian authorities in person as required by the terms of his probation. Navalny also insisted that his due process rights were crudely violated during his arrest and described his jailing as a travesty of justice.
Navalny’s jailing has triggered massive protests across Russia over the past two weekends, in which tens of thousands took to the streets to demand his release, chanting slogans against Putin.
Police detained over 5,750 people during Sunday’s rallies, including more than 1,900 in Moscow, the biggest number the nation has seen since Soviet times. Some were beaten.
Most were released after being handed court summons and face fines or jail terms of 7-15 days. Several people faced criminal charges over alleged violence against police.
Law enforcement officers detain a man outside the Moscow City Court in Moscow on Tuesday
Yulia Navalny speaks to police outside the entrance to the court this morning
Yulia Navalny is surrounded by police and reporters outside the court in Moscow on Tuesday
Riot police early this morning prepare for the arrival of Navalny and his supporters
Navalny’s team has called for another demonstration Tuesday outside the Moscow court building. Police were deployed in force near the court building and cordoned off nearby streets, making random detentions.
After his arrest, Navalny’s team released a two-hour YouTube video featuring an opulent Black Sea residence allegedly built for Putin.
The video has been viewed over 100 million times, fueling discontent as ordinary Russians struggle with an economic downturn and the coronavirus pandemic.
Putin insisted last week that neither he nor his relatives own any of the properties mentioned in the video, and his long time confidant, construction magnate Arkady Rotenberg, claimed that he owns it.
As part of efforts to squelch the protests, the authorities have targeted Navalny’s associates and activists across the country.
Protesters rally in support of Navalny in Moscow on Sunday
A demonstrator in Moscow on Sunday as thousands gathered to protest against Navalny’s detention
His brother Oleg, top ally Lyubov Sobol and several others were put under house arrest for two months and face criminal charges of violating coronavirus restrictions.
The jailing of Navalny and the crackdown on protests have stoked international outrage, with Western officials calling for his release and condemning the arrests of demonstrators.
Russia has dismissed the comments of U.S. officials as interfering in its domestic affairs.