Russian Putin critic Alexey Navalny was sentenced to three and a half years in prison Tuesday, two weeks after he returned to Russia from Germany upon his five-month recovery overcoming a Soviet-era nerve-agent poisoning.
Courts gave Navalny, 44, one year of credit for time served but ruled the anti-corruption investigator must spend the next two years and eight months behind bars, CBS reported. In the courtroom, Navalny condemned the sentence handed down for violating a previous three-and-a-half-year suspended sentence as a politically motivated play, less about him than it is about Putin dissenters.
“The main thing in this whole trial isn’t what happens to me. Locking me up isn’t difficult,” Navalny said in the courtroom. “What matters most is why this is happening. This is happening to intimidate large numbers of people. They’re imprisoning one person to frighten millions.”
According to CBS, more than 8,000 of Navalny’s supporters have been similarly arrested at protests in recent weeks, and are calling on followers to demonstrate again Tuesday in light of Navalny’s sentence.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the arrest overseas.
“The United States is deeply concerned by Russia’s actions towards Aleksey Navalny,” Blinken wrote. “We reiterate our call for his immediate and unconditional release as well as the release of those wrongfully detained for exercising their rights.”
The United States is deeply concerned by Russia’s actions toward Aleksey Navalny. We reiterate our call for his immediate and unconditional release as well as the release of all those wrongfully detained for exercising their rights.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) February 2, 2021
In his first television interview since his Senate confirmation Sunday, Blinken blasted Putin’s oppression of protesters, telling NBC that he was “deeply disturbed by the violent crackdown.” The new secretary of state, however, did not commit to new sanctions.