Jailed Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny said he faces a new “terrorist case,” in what could mean decades more in prison for the outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In comments posted on Twitter, Navalny said that despite his jail term he was accused of committing “terrorist attacks” and that he had been told the case would be heard by a military court.
He said the new terror case is separate from an extremism case against him, on which there was a hearing at Moscow’s Basmanny district court on Wednesday.
His comments come as his daughter, Daria Navalnaya, told CNN that the Russian authorities were depriving her father of food.
Navalny is currently serving a nine-year jail term at a maximum-security prison east of Moscow after being convicted of large-scale fraud by a Russian court last year.
In 2020, Navalny was poisoned with the nerve agent novichok, according to the German government, an act he and Western officials blame on the Kremlin. After recovering, he returned to Russia a few days later where he was soon detained.
Navalny’s spokesperson, Kira Yarmysh, said on Twitter that he now faces “two big trials.”
“First on extremism – which carry a total of up to 30 years of imprisonment. Most likely, it [the trial] will start by the end of May. Then on terrorism charges – [which carry] up to 35 years of imprisonment,” Yarmysh said.
Russia’s Investigative Committee opened a criminal case against Navalny in September 2021 on the grounds of the alleged “creation of an extremist community,” Russian state media TASS reported.
Navalny called the extremism charges against him “absurd” in a tweet on Wednesday. “They [the authorities] made absurd accusations, under which I’m facing 30 years in prison,” he said, in comments reported by his team.
The director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, Ivan Zhdanov, said that part of the terrorism case against Navalny involves comments Navalny’s chief of staff, Leonid Volkov, made on YouTube last year about Putin. After this, charges were brought against “all the founders” of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, Zhdanov said.
Zhdanov also said that the investigator in the terrorism case was considering the killing of military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky as part of the charges.
Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee claimed earlier this month that an explosion that killed Tatarsky at a cafe in St. Petersburg on April 2 was planned by the special services of Ukraine with the participation of Navalny’s supporters. Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation deny the claims.
Yarmysh added that a judge ruled he has ten days to “familiarize himself” with the documents detailing the extremism case against him.
Russian state news agency TASS said there were 196 volumes of documents related to this case. TASS said that the court would consider the issue again after 5 May.
‘He can’t eat’
Navalny’s daughter Daria meanwhile raised concerns that Navalny been losing weight dramatically while imprisoned, as a result of prison authorities allegedly limiting “the amount of food he can purchase” in his prison’s canteen.
“Now the situation has gotten so ridiculous that he buys the food which is, you know, oats – he buys the oats, the oats are brought to him, shown to him, and then are just destroyed. So, he can’t eat. And it’s, you know, something so basic is stripped away from a human being. It is outrageous,” Daria Navalnaya said, citing information from Navalny’s lawyers.
His spokesperson Kira Yarmysh wrote in a Twitter post on April 11 that Navalny lost eight kilograms over the course of 15 days in his isolated prison cell. Navalny’s team has also reported that he has been experiencing severe stomach issues in prison, and suggested that he may have been poisoned again.
Even while behind bars, his Instagram and Twitter accounts keep up his attacks on Russian President Vladimir Putin as he passes notes for his team to post online.
Navalnaya told CNN that she is advocating for her father because “I am trying to bring more attention because people don’t necessarily realize how important – how the Russian government is stripping everyone who’s a political prisoner in Russia right now of such basic needs as eating food.”