Putin critic Alexei Navalny says he could face an extra 15 years in prison if found guilty of wrongdoing in a fresh criminal case.
The Russian dissident said Tuesday he was accused of creating an “extremist group in order to incite hatred towards officials and oligarchs.” He is already serving over 10 years in prison on fraud and contempt of court charges.
“Maybe Putin doesn’t hate me, maybe he secretly adores me. That’s why he wants me to be hidden in an underground bunker, guarded by reliable people, just like himself,” Navalny quipped on Twitter. “It turns out that I created an extremist group in order to incite hatred towards officials and oligarchs. And when they put me in jail, I dared to be disgruntled about it (silly me) and called for rallies.”
1/6 Well, what do I know? Maybe Putin doesn’t hate me, maybe he secretly adores me. That’s why he wants me to be hidden in an underground bunker, guarded by reliable people, just like himself.
— Alexey Navalny (@navalny) May 31, 2022
Russia has not confirmed the new charges against Navalny.
Last week, a Russian appeals court shot down a request from Navalny to appeal a nine-year prison sentence levied against him in March on charges of embezzlement and contempt of court. In addition to the nine-year sentence, Navalny was serving a 2.5-year sentence for another fraud case in 2014.
Despite his imprisonment, Navalny has remained an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government, calling on his followers to protest the war in Ukraine and other government policies. He is the head of the Russia of the Future Party, which opposes the ruling United Russia Party and Putin, who is an independent.
Navalny was most recently arrested in January 2021 upon his return to Russia from Germany, where he received treatment for an alleged nerve agent attack he has publicly speculated came from Russian agents. Investigators concluded he was poisoned with a Novichok-class nerve agent, but Russia has vehemently denied any involvement.
Russia detained him for allegedly breaching parole conditions for his 2014 conviction while in Germany, and he was slapped with the 2.5-year sentence as a result. The charges in March stemmed from allegations that he embezzled funds for personal use from donations given to political organizations the Russian government later declared “extremist.” Navalny then was charged with contempt of court for allegedly insulting a judge during a prior trial. He has claimed these charges against him were politically motivated.
Navalny’s imprisonment has long been panned by Western officials, including U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has demanded his unconditional release. Putin has been cracking down on dissent within Russia amid the war in Ukraine.