Russian prosecutors on Thursday requested a jail term of 20 years for the already imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who denounced Russia’s “senseless war” in his last statement to the court.
The case comes more than a year into Russia’s full-scale offensive in Ukraine, which unleashed an unprecedented crackdown on the Kremlin’s critics, with many now in exile or in jail.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic, accused of extremism-linked charges, is expected to hear his verdict on August 4.
As the prosecutors’ announcement came, the European Union added the chief of the Russian prison camp holding Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny to its sanctions list.
The trial has been held behind closed doors at the maximum security prison where he is jailed, the IK-6 penal colony, some 250 kilometres (155 miles) east of Moscow.
Navalny, 47, once mobilised massive anti-Kremlin protests but is now serving a nine-year prison sentence on embezzlement charges that his supporters see as punishment for his political work.
He was arrested in 2021 on his arrival in Moscow from Germany, where he had been recovering from a poisoning attack that he blamed on the Kremlin.
Navalny has complained of health problems and experienced major weight loss since being jailed in a strict regime penal colony.
Prosecutors on Thursday asked for Navalny to serve his additional sentence in an even more restrictive, special regime prison.
Navalny has been charged with financing extremist activity, publicly inciting extremist activities and “rehabilitating the Nazi ideology,” among other offences.
While he has been the target of multiple lawsuits, this is the first formally political case against him, his team said.
Moscow’s crackdown on freedoms in Russia has reached an unprecedented level over a year into its assault on Ukraine.
Russia is “floundering in a pool of either mud or blood, with broken bones, with a poor and robbed population, and around it lie tens of thousands of people killed in the most stupid and senseless war of the 21st century,” Navalny said.
Thousands of Russians have been detained for protesting the conflict in Ukraine, and most high-profile activists still in Russia — including Vladimir Kara-Murza and Ilya Yashin — are behind bars.
Navalny too has regularly condemned the offensive in Ukraine from prison, where he communicates with the outside world through his legal team.
In June, Navalny’s team announced the launch of a campaign to deter Russians from supporting the conflict.
In a concluding statement in court, Navalny once again called on Russians to stand up to the authorities.
“For a new, free, rich country to be born… some sacrifice, some effort has to be made by everyone,” Navalny said.
“Soon or later, Russia will rise again. And it depends on us to decide in what way it will lean in the future,” he said.