Jailed Putin critic Navalny launches anti-Kremlin campaign ahead of new trial

Alexei Navalny who is serving multiple sentences totalling more than nine years, has made his court debut to begin his most recent trial in which the 47-year-old is being accused of extremism. Mr Navalny is currently the most well-known prisoner in Russia and has been at the forefront of opposition to Vladimir Putin for the last decade.

Mr Navalny appeared frail and exhausted throughout the court hearing while wearing his prison garb, but he strongly criticised the state’s poor case.

He called the latest allegations of extremism “absurd” and stated that they could lead to a 30-year prison sentence.

In addition, he disclosed that an investigator had notified him about a forthcoming military trial on terrorism-related accusations, which might result in a life sentence.

The opposition leader, who uses his attorneys and allies to communicate on social media, earned considerable popularity in the 2010s, inspiring tens of thousands of people to demonstrate.

He requested support for his new campaign from sociologists, political scientists, IT and marketing professionals, donors, and volunteers in his messages.

Mr Navalny has also announced a fresh, extensive campaign to shift Russian public opinion against Putin and his invasion of Ukraine in addition to his courtroom actions.

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The trial began inside a maximum security penal colony in Melekhovo, 250 kilometers (150 miles) east of Moscow, where Navalny is serving a nine-year sentence for fraud and contempt of court — charges he says are politically motivated.

Soon after it started, the judge closed the trial despite Navalny’s demand to keep it open.

In a statement posted on social media by his allies, Navalny declared that the decision to close the trial was a sign of fear by President Vladimir Putin, and he announced the start of a campaign against Moscow’s decision to send troops to Ukraine.

Navalny said the effort must reach out to millions to explain the disastrous impact of the fighting and “combat Putin’s lies and the Kremlin’s hypocrisy”.

He argued that despite a relentless crackdown on dissent, such a campaign could be efficiently conducted on messaging apps outside the authorities’ control.

Navalny said: “No one but us could enter this fight for our citizens’ hearts and minds, so we need to do it and win.”

Navalny, who exposed official corruption and organized major anti-Kremlin protests, was arrested in January 2021 upon returning to Moscow after recuperating in Germany from nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin.

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