Kremlin opponent Navalny sentenced to 19 years in prison

A Russian court extended opposition politician Alexei Navalny’s prison sentence on Friday. The 47-year-old has already been behind bars for two years and has now been sentenced to 19 years in prison on charges of extremism. Commentators shed light on the background and goals of the sentence.

La Stampa (IT) /

Opposition no longer possible

For critics of the regime in Russia the situation is becoming increasingly difficult, Russia expert Anna Zafesova laments in La Stampa:

“The Navalny affair shows how much Russia has changed in the three years since he was poisoned on the Kremlin’s orders. When he was arrested on his return to the country on 17 January 2021 thousands of people took to the streets and risked being arrested. Certainly not enough to create a protest movement that could make the Kremlin afraid, but millions of people expressed their anger on social media. Today, it is impossible to take to the streets in Russia. Almost all the Navalny activists are either in prison or have fled abroad, and merely mentioning Navalny in public can lead to a prison sentence.”

Anna Zafesova
Kleine Zeitung (AT) /

The goal is to break him

The Kleine Zeitung explains why, unlike Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin for example, Navalny is serving a long prison sentence:

“The Russian state is once again relying on slow torture. ... The goal is clear: the Putin critic is to be broken — and all those who have critical thoughts running through their heads are to be intimidated. All of them? Not quite. Yevgeny Prigozhin, for example, recently reappeared in Russian politics — as if the uprising of 24 June had never happened. This was possible because Prigozhin ultimately belongs to the system and his fighters are useful to Putin. What is not allowed: criticising the corruption of the state leadership or the war, as Navalny did.”

Nina Koren
Novaya Gazeta Europe (RU) /

Brainwork behind bars could help

Putin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky spent ten years behind bars. In Novaya Gazeta Europe he describes how he was coped with the way the regime kept increasing his sentence:

“You never know how much longer you have to go. It’s very hard. ... It breaks the will of many, which is exactly what the system wants. Over time, partly consciously, partly intuitively, I developed a way to keep myself afloat in this situation. I’ve always loved to work. ... And so I decided that this was simply what my office looked like now. Yes, with bunks and bars and concrete walls. But that doesn’t really affect productivity. Sure, communication is more difficult and there’s no computer. But you have the time and the opportunity to concentrate.”

Mikhail Khodorkovsky
Világgazdaság (HU) /

Isolated from the outside world

Even in prison Navalny was too dangerous for Putin, Világgazdaság suspects:

“In addition to the 19 years in jail the regime was probably also aiming to lock up Navalny in a high-security prison where he would be far less likely to receive visitors, which would make it easier to isolate one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s biggest political opponents from the outside world.”

A. F.