Putin critic Alexei Navalny sentenced to 9 years in prison after being found guilty of fraud

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny urged his supporters to show their opposition to the Russian government after a court sentenced him to nine years in prison on Tuesday for fraud and contempt.

Russian opposition leader already serving 2.5-year sentence for parole violations

Alexei Navalny is shown taking part in a rally in Moscow in February 2020. The Kremlin critic received a nine-year prison sentence on Tuesday after being convicted of fraud and contempt of court. (Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters)

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny urged his supporters to show their opposition to the Russian government after a court sentenced him to nine years in prison on Tuesday for fraud and contempt.

Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critics, was also found guilty of contempt of court and fined 1.2 million rubles ($14,500 Cdn).

He is already serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence at a prison camp east of Moscow for parole violations related to charges he says were fabricated to thwart his political ambitions.

It wasn't immediately clear whether Navalny must serve the new nine-year sentence in addition to the 2 1/2 years, or where he will serve it. 

After Navalny's sentence was handed down, his Twitter account responded with a quote from television series The Wire and called on his supporters to take action against Putin's regime.

"I want to say: the best support for me and other political prisoners is not sympathy and kind words, but actions," read part of a tweet thread. "Any activity against the deceitful and thievish Putin's regime. Any opposition to these war criminals."

The thread also said that Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, outlawed in Russia, would become a global organization and urged his supporters to join it.

Plans to appeal

Judge Margarita Kotova, who confirmed Navalny had pleaded "not guilty" to the fraud charges, said he would remain under some restrictions for 20 months after his release.

Prosecutors had sought to add 13 years to Navalny's original sentence in the latest criminal case, in which he was accused of using 356 million roubles ($4.3 million Cdn) in donations collected by his foundation for personal purposes.

Lawyer Olga Mikhailova said Navalny would appeal.

"Alexei is feeling good," she said. "He was sure of his innocence. He argued his innocence."

Earlier Tuesday, a gaunt Navalny stood beside his lawyers in a room filled with prison security officers as the judge read out the accusations against him. The 45-year-old seemed unfazed, looking down as he flipped through court documents.

WATCH | Navalny appears in court: 

Russian opposition leader Navalny gets 9-year prison sentence for fraud

9 months ago
Duration 0:31
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been found guilty of fraud and contempt of court and sentenced to nine years in a maximum security prison.

The trial, which opened about a month ago, unfolded in a makeshift courtroom in the prison colony in Pokrov, hours away from Moscow, where Navalny is serving his sentence for parole violations.

Navalny's supporters have criticized the authorities' decision to move the proceedings there from a courthouse in Moscow, saying it has effectively limited access to the proceedings for the media and supporters.

Poisoning in 2020

Navalny was jailed last year when he returned to Russia after receiving medical treatment in Germany following a poison attack with a Soviet-era nerve agent during a visit to Siberia in 2020. Navalny blamed Putin for the attack.

The Kremlin said it had seen no evidence that Navalny was poisoned and denied any Russian role if he was.

Russian authorities have cast Navalny and his supporters as subversives determined to destabilize Russia with backing from the West. Many of Navalny's allies have fled Russia rather than face restrictions or jail at home.

Navalny's opposition movement has been labelled "extremist" and shut down, although his supporters continue to express their political stance, including their opposition to Moscow's military intervention in Ukraine, on social media.

After the verdict, his wife, Yulia, posted on Instagram: "The figure 9 means absolutely nothing. I love you, my dearest person in the world, and I've never stopped being proud of you all these many, many years."

His lawyers, Mikhailova and Vadim Kobzev, were briefly detained outside the prison complex after the hearing, but Kobzev subsequently announced in a tweet that they had been released.

With files from The Associated Press