Kremlin faces new charges in trial outside Moscow

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Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny stood trial in a penal colony outside Moscow on Tuesday, charged with embezzlement and contempt of court. If found guilty, he faces up to 15 additional years in prison.

The hearing is taking place inside the maximum security prison of Moscow‘s Lefortovsky District Court, where he is being held, 96 kilometers from Moscow.

The Kremlin critic was arrested in January 2021 and found guilty of violating his parole by spending several months in Germany recovering from a poison attack. He was sentenced to 2 and a half years in prison.

During his retrial, Russian investigators claim that Navalny embezzled money given to his political anti-corruption organization FBK. The contempt of court charge stems from Navalny allegedly insulting a judge during a previous trial.

“It’s just that these people, who ordered this trial, are really scared,” Navalny, 45, said during the hearing. “(Afraid) of what I say during this trial, of people seeing that the case is obviously fabricated.”

Navalny categorically denies the accusations and calls them politically motivated.

“I’m not afraid of this court, the penal colony, the FSB, the prosecutors, the chemical weapons, Putin and everyone else,” Navalny said in court, according to a video of his statement. “I’m not afraid because I think it’s humiliating and unnecessary to be afraid of everything.”

Navalny’s allies have denounced the affair, and his lawyer says it is an attempt by the Kremlin to silence him.

“We believe the persecution of Navalny is illegal, is clearly political in nature and is aimed at discrediting him and removing him from political activity,” lawyer Olga Mikhailova said, according to Agence France-Presse.

A longtime rival of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Navalny has accused the president of enriching himself and other government officials through corrupt measures. His attempt to run in the 2018 presidential elections only worsened his relationship with the Kremlin.

For the past few months, Navalny and his associates have been added to a national register of extremists and terrorists by Russian officials.

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