Russia shrugs off fury over Navalny’s prison sentence


A Moscow court jailed Navalny for three and a half years on Tuesday, although he may actually serve two years and eight months because of time spent under house arrest.

Agencies, Geneva/moscow

PUBLISHED ON FEB 04, 2021 06:07 AM IST

The United Nations human rights office on Wednesday voiced deep dismay at the sentencing of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny and called for the immediate release of peaceful protesters, including around 1,400 arrested on Tuesday.

A Moscow court jailed Navalny for three and a half years on Tuesday, although he may actually serve two years and eight months because of time spent under house arrest.

UN human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said in a statement his sentence was for allegedly violating the conditions of a 2014 suspended sentence in an embezzlement case “that the European Court of Human Rights had in 2017 already unanimously found to be arbitrary, unfair and manifestly unreasonable”.

Also read: More sanctions on Russia over Navalny cannot be ruled out

US secretary of state Antony Blinken reiterated calls for Navalny’s immediate release. “We will coordinate closely with our allies and partners to hold Russia accountable for failing to uphold the rights of its citizens,” he said.

Russia accused the West on Wednesday of descending into hysteria over the jailing of Navalny. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian riot police were justified in using harsh methods to break up protests against the sentence, saying illegal protest activity needed to be stamped out.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the ruling was “far from any rule of law”.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron called it “unacceptable”, while UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the ruling was “pure cowardice and fails to meet the most basic standards of justice”.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov rejected Western demands as “arrogant and improper”, asserting that Moscow will not be moved by the West’s “hysterics”. He argued that the Russian police response to the protests was milder than in Western countries.

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