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Alexei Navalny embraces his wife at show trial: Putin critic faces another TEN YEARS in prison

A new trial against jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny began Tuesday inside the penal colony outside Moscow where he is being held, after being arrested upon his return to Russia in January 2021.

A video link showed Navalny in prison uniform embracing his wife Yuliya Navalnaya – while guards stood on either side of them – after she demanded access to the closed-door proceedings a day earlier.

The proceedings, that have been widely condemned as a show trial, took place as Russia announced it was pulling back some of its forces near the Ukrainian border to their bases, in what would be the first major step towards de-escalation in weeks of crisis with the West.

Navalny’s supporters had claimed the trial was being held while attention was drawn by the growing crisis, which has seen Russia mass over 130,000 troops on its borders with Ukraine.

The Russian opposition leader, who has spent a year behind bars after surviving a poison attack that he blames on the Kremlin, is accused of fresh fraud charges. He is currently serving a two-and-a-half year sentence, but the new charges could see his time behind bars significantly extended.

If he is ultimately found guilty of embezzlement, Putin’s most prolific political opponent could be jailed until 2032.

A new trial against jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny began Tuesday inside the penal colony outside Moscow where he is held. A video link showed Navalny (pictured centre with his wife Yuliya Navalnaya via video link) in a prison uniform at the hearing 

The video link also showed Navalny's wife Yuliya Navalnaya inside the room where the trial is heard, a day after she had demanded access to the proceedings (pictured)

The video link also showed Navalny’s wife Yuliya Navalnaya inside the room where the trial is heard, a day after she had demanded access to the proceedings (pictured)

The hearing of Moscow’s Lefortovsky district court is taking place inside the maximum security prison where he is being held in Pokrov, 60 miles east of Moscow. 

Yesterday, Yulia lashed out at Russian authorities on the eve of the trial after she learned she would not be able to attend.

‘Listen you, cowards and scoundrels! I demand that I am allowed to attend my husband’s trial,’ Yulia, 45, said on Instagram.

Family and journalists had been barred from the trial. The couple have been married for 20 years and have two children together.

Yulia said the new case is ‘so pathetic they are afraid to hold the trial in Moscow’. ‘My husband is an honest man. And they are keeping him in prison because he is not afraid of this government,’ Yulia added.

According to reports, Navalny and Yulia last saw each other in August, where they were permitted an extended visit for three days. 

Amnesty International described the hearing as a ‘sham trial, attended by prison guards rather than the media.’

‘Aleksei Navalny was detained under politically motivated charges and should never have been imprisoned in the first place,’ the human rights organisation said in a statement on Monday.

‘Now, as the new trial starts, it’s obvious that the Russian authorities intend to ensure that Navalny doesn’t leave prison any time soon. A closed-door trial without public access only makes one more suspicious about new human rights violations the Russian authorities are trying to hide,’ the group said.

The new fraud case against Navalny was launched in December 2020, while the 45-year-old was recovering in Germany after narrowly surviving a nerve agent poisoning while on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow that year.

While being treated in Berlin, Navalny was put into a coma. He came out of it o September 7, and once he had recovered, decided to return to Russia on January 17, 2021 despite knowing he would be arrested.

Investigators accuse Navalny of stealing for personal use more than $4.7 million of donations that were given to his political organisations. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

A new trial against jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny began Tuesday inside the penal colony outside Moscow where he is held. A video link showed Navalny (pictured centre with his wife Yuliya Navalnaya via video link) in a prison uniform at the hearing

A new trial against jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny began Tuesday inside the penal colony outside Moscow where he is held. A video link showed Navalny (pictured centre with his wife Yuliya Navalnaya via video link) in a prison uniform at the hearing

Russian dissident Alexei Navalny today has gone on trial for embezzlement charges in what critics of Putin believe is a specially scheduled hearing to coincide with the furore surrounding Ukraine (Navalny pictured Feb. 20, 2021)

Russian dissident Alexei Navalny today has gone on trial for embezzlement charges in what critics of Putin believe is a specially scheduled hearing to coincide with the furore surrounding Ukraine (Navalny pictured Feb. 20, 2021)

Navalny's wife Yulia Navalnaya lashed out at Russian authorities yesterday on the eve of his trial after she learned she would not be able to attend. 'Listen you, cowards and scoundrels! I demand that I am allowed to attend my husband's trial,' Yulia, 45, said on Instagram. 'My husband is an honest man. And they are keeping him in prison because he is not afraid of this government' (Alexei and Yulia pictured September 2020)

Navalny’s wife Yulia Navalnaya lashed out at Russian authorities yesterday on the eve of his trial after she learned she would not be able to attend. ‘Listen you, cowards and scoundrels! I demand that I am allowed to attend my husband’s trial,’ Yulia, 45, said on Instagram. ‘My husband is an honest man. And they are keeping him in prison because he is not afraid of this government’ (Alexei and Yulia pictured September 2020)

The start of the trial comes as talks over Ukraine between Russia and the West intensified, with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz the latest Western leader due in Moscow for talks with Putin.

Navalny allies have called on Scholz to bring up the fate of the politician in his talks with Putin later on Tuesday.

‘Germany stands for peace and justice,’ Navalny’s spokesperson Kira Yarmysh said on Twitter. ‘And now its stance on this is more important than ever.’

‘The trial directly in jail of the number one political prisoner says everything about the Putin regime and the prospects of negotiations with him,’ she said.

Other supporters of Navalny have claimed the ‘open’ trial was deliberately organised at a time when most media attention is focused on the escalating tensions around Ukraine and amid fears of a Russian invasion.

The country has massed more than 130,000 troops on the borders with its neighbour, with Western intelligence warning an invasion could be ordered by Putin in the coming days. However, on Tuesday Russia announced that it would withdraw troops from the border in an apparent deescalation.

Maria Pevchikh, one of Navalny’s closest supporters and head of the investigative unit of the Anti-Corruption Foundation he created in 2011, also speculated on Twitter that a long-term sentence may give rise to another attempt on his life.

‘We should hope it’s just the trial they are disguising and distracting us from, not something worse. Which, again, is not that crazy to expect,’ Pevchikh wrote.

‘Putin did order to kill Navalny once and managed to get away with it. The line has been crossed. Nothing stops Putin from doing it again.’ 

Navalny, 45, faces a special hearing inside the Pokrov prison where he is currently serving a two-and-a-half year sentence on fraud charges widely thought to be unfounded (Navalny pictured Feb 2021)

Navalny, 45, faces a special hearing inside the Pokrov prison where he is currently serving a two-and-a-half year sentence on fraud charges widely thought to be unfounded (Navalny pictured Feb 2021)

'We should hope it's just the trial they are disguising and distracting us from, not something worse. Which, again, is not that crazy to expect,' Navalny ally Maria Pevchikh wrote. 'Putin did order to kill Navalny once and managed to get away with it. The line has been crossed. Nothing stops Putin from doing it again' (Putin pictured Feb 7, 2022)

‘We should hope it’s just the trial they are disguising and distracting us from, not something worse. Which, again, is not that crazy to expect,’ Navalny ally Maria Pevchikh wrote. ‘Putin did order to kill Navalny once and managed to get away with it. The line has been crossed. Nothing stops Putin from doing it again’ (Putin pictured Feb 7, 2022)

Maria Pevchikh, one of Navalny's closest supporters and head of the Anti-Corruption Foundation he created in 2011, speculated on Twitter that a long-term sentence may give rise to another attempt on his life

Maria Pevchikh, one of Navalny’s closest supporters and head of the Anti-Corruption Foundation he created in 2011, speculated on Twitter that a long-term sentence may give rise to another attempt on his life

The fraud case which first landed Navalny in prison began in December 2020, while the 45-year-old was recovering in Germany after narrowly surviving a nerve agent poisoning likely orchestrated by Russian agents.

Investigators accuse Navalny of stealing for personal use more than $4.7 million (£3.4 million) in donations to his political organisations. 

The charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, but Navalny also faces an extra six months for contempt of court during one of his hearings last year.

Most commentators however believe Navalny is innocent of the charges and accuse Russian authorities of manufacturing a case to silence the dissident’s criticism of President Putin.  

In an extensive Twitter threat on Monday, Pevchikh said Putin could use the Ukraine crisis to distract the world’s media as he deals a major blow to Navalny, and in doing so, a major blow to the anti-Kremlin movement.

‘The key to saving Navalny’s life is constant uninterrupted attention. There isn’t a better moment for Putin to get rid of his main enemy than the moment when the world is looking elsewhere, at something he is doing with his other hand,’ she said.

The investigative journalist also described Navalny’s charges as ‘rubbish’ and declared ‘[Russian authorities] can’t even falsify charges because there’s nothing to pin them on. Navalny is innocent.’   

Yulia Navalnaya, the wife of the Russian jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, attends an opposition rally in Moscow, Russia, 21 April 2021

Yulia Navalnaya, the wife of the Russian jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, attends an opposition rally in Moscow, Russia, 21 April 2021

Navalny’s poisoning and arrest sparked widespread condemnation abroad as well as sanctions from Western capitals.  

Russian authorities last June branded Navalny’s political organisations ‘extremist’, prompting his team to shut down the regional network that supported his political campaigns and corruption investigations. 

The Anti-Corruption Foundation, which was set up by Navalny in 2001 and whose investigations are overseen by Pevchikh, was officially liquidated by the Moscow City Court.

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk



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