November 24, 2022

Russia targets new legal action against two prominent dissidents


Russia’s most prominent opposition leader has flagged new charges against him, while a Moscow court ordered the detention of a state TV journalist who turned anti-war protester as the Kremlin prosecuted his campaign against dissent on Thursday.

The measures taken against Alexei Navalny, who is already in jail, and Marina Ovsyannikova, who fled Russia to avoid arrest, coincided with President Vladimir Putin granting new emergency powers to local officials to deal with what it sees as security threats stemming from the Ukrainian invasion.

Several criminal charges have been filed against Navalny, leading his associates to suggest the Kremlin intends to keep him behind bars indefinitely.

In the latest case, Navalny reported on social media that Russian investigators had launched an investigation against him for terrorist propaganda as well as calling for and funding extremist actions.

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These charges could keep him in prison for 30 years. On Tuesday, a Russian court rejected his second appeal of a nine-year sentence on other counts – fraud and contempt of court.

Navalny, Putin’s fiercest enemy, was arrested in January 2021 upon his return from Germany to Russia, where he was recovering from poisoning he blames on the Kremlin. The Russian authorities deny any responsibility.

He was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for a parole violation that Western leaders have called politically motivated. In March, he was sentenced to nine years in a separate case for embezzling money he and his foundation have raised over the years and for insulting a judge in a previous trial. Navalny dismissed the allegations as politically motivated.

Ovsyannikova, meanwhile, has staged one of the most brazen and visible anti-war protests since Russian troops attacked Ukraine on February 24. state television stations holding a poster saying: ‘Stop the war, don’t believe the propaganda, they are lying to you here’.

She quit her job at the chain, was accused of denigrating the Russian military, and fined 30,000 rubles ($270 at the time).

His legal woes have continued since then, as have his protests.

In the latest action, a Moscow court on Thursday ordered his detention for just under two months, Russian news agency Tass reported. However, her lawyer said Ovsyannikova fled to Europe with her daughter, so the court said detention would begin upon her return. It was unclear whether she intended to return to Russia.

The former television journalist left Russia to avoid house arrest, which the court ordered in August pending an investigation and possible trial for spreading false information about the Russian armed forces. These accusations stemmed from a street demonstration where she held up a banner that read: “Putin is a killer, his soldiers are fascists. 352 children were killed (in Ukraine). How many more children would have to die for you to stop?

Ovsyannikova has been fined at least two more for denigrating the military on other occasions.

Putin has doubled down on his campaign against dissent since invading Ukraine, and the emergency security powers he authorized on Wednesday allow local leaders to take more drastic action.

Hundreds of Russians have been arrested during anti-war street protests, and others have been detained either for directly criticizing the war or simply for not using the Kremlin term for it, “special military operation”. .

Hundreds of thousands of other Russians have fled their homeland because of their opposition to the war or the complications arising from it.

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