Russian state prosecutors are poised to jail the opposition leader Alexei Navalny for three-and-a-half years, with the Kremlin shrugging off US complaints about his case on Monday ahead of a crucial court hearing on Tuesday.
Navalny – who was jailed after flying back to Moscow last month – faces the prospect of a lengthy spell behind bars. Vladimir Putin’s press spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Moscow would ignore statements from the Biden administration, following Sunday’s mass pro-Navalny protests.
After demonstrators took to the streets in 90 towns and cities across the country riot police responded with a major show of force. They made a record number of arrests, detaining 5,300 people, including Navalny’s wife, Yulia, who was seized in north-east Moscow.
The Kremlin’s apparent strategy is to tough out growing street protests, which are likely to continue on Tuesday when Navalny appears in court. Moscow’s prison service has demanded a three-and-a-half year sentence for alleged parole violations.
Navalny says the charges are fake and politically motivated. He is accused of failing to meet his parole officer while he was in Germany recovering from novichok poisoning. Navalny alleges Putin authorised a bungled FSB spy agency operation last August to kill him in Siberia.
The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has condemned Moscow’s heavy-handed tactics against peaceful protesters and journalists and has called for Navalny to be set free. “We are deeply disturbed by this violent crackdown against people exercising their rights to protest peacefully against their government,” he said.