Moscow, April 26 (AFP): Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said Wednesday he could face life in prison on “terrorism” charges while another popular opposition politician went on trial in Russia’s escalating clampdown on dissent.
Authorities are taking the crackdown on freedoms in Russia to an unprecedented new level over a year into Moscow’s assault on Ukraine, with independent media shut down and most key opposition figures behind bars or in exile.
Navalny’s team says authorities are preparing a major new trial against the star enemy of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“They have brought absurd charges against me, according to which I am facing up to 35 years,” said Navalny, who wore his prison uniform and appeared gaunt but defiant.
Navalny, 46, said that within the framework of the new extremism case he was told he would be separately judged by a military tribunal over “terrorism” charges.
He said he could face life in prison.
Last October, Navalny said that investigators had launched a new criminal case against him on allegations of “extremism” and “terrorism” and “rehabilitating the Nazi ideology”.
The court gave Navalny until May 5 to read the 196 tomes of materials comprising the extremism case, his team said.
Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said a new major trial against the opposition politician was expected to begin “before the end of May.”
Then he is expected to stand a separate trial on “terrorism” charges, Yarmysh said on social media.
She called the appearance of the new case while Navalny was behind bars “mindboggling”.
Navalny, who used to mobilise massive protests against the Kremlin, is currently serving a nine-year prison sentence on embezzlement and other charges.
He shot to global prominence after he barely survived a poisoning with Novichok, a Soviet-designed nerve agent, which the opposition politician blames on the Kremlin. He was arrested in January 2021 upon returning from Germany after recovering from the poisoning attack.