Tag Archives: North Asia

Appeal Court upholds Navalny jail sentence.

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Navalny and his supporters say the rulings and several other cases against him are a pretext to silence his corruption exposes and quash his political ambitions.

A Moscow appeal court on Saturday upheld a prison sentence imposed on chief Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny after he returned to Russia from Germany last month.

Judge Dmitry Balashov rejected Navalny’s appeal of the February 2 ruling, which turned a 2014 suspended sentence on embezzlement charges into real jail time.

The judge decided to count six weeks Navalny was under house arrest as part of the time served, so he will now be imprisoned for just over two-and-a-half years in a penal colony.

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Navalny, a 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner who has emerged as President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent opponent, was arrested in January when he returned to Russia after months in Germany recovering from a nerve agent poisoning he blames on the Kremlin.

He was detained for violating parole conditions of the 2014 suspended sentence and it was then turned into a custodial sentence.

Navalny and his supporters say the rulings and several other cases against him are a pretext to silence his corruption exposes and quash his political ambitions.

He was due in court again later Saturday in a another trial where he is accused of defamation for calling a World War II veteran a “traitor” after he appeared in a pro-Kremlin video.

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Prosecutors have called for Navalny to be fined the equivalent of $13,000 in that case.

They also want his 2014 sentence turned into real jail time because the alleged defamation took place while he was serving the suspended term.

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#Newsworthy

Vladimir Putin accuses West of using ‘jailed Navalny’ against Russia.

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Navalny, a persistent thorn in Putin’s side, was arrested on his return from Germany, where he had been recovering from a poisoning he claims was carried out by the Kremlin and the Russian security services, FSB.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday accused the West of using jailed opposition figure Alexei Navalny to try to “contain” Russia.

“Our opponents or our potential opponents… have always relied on — and used — ambitious, power-hungry people,” Putin said in an interview with Russian media conducted on Wednesday but only broadcast on Sunday by public channel Rossiya 24.

Putin suggested that the wave of protests recently held across Russia in the wake of Navalny’s arrest and imprisonment had also been fed from abroad, against the backdrop of the widespread “exhaustion, frustration and dissatisfaction” arising from the coronavirus pandemic.

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He said that Russia’s “numerous successes” on a military level, but also in its management of the Covid-19 crisis and the development of the Sputnik V vaccine, were “starting to irritate” Moscow’s opponents.

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government via a teleconference call at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow. (Photo by Alexey NIKOLSKY / SPUTNIK / AFP)

“The stronger we become, the stronger this containment policy,” Putin said.

Navalny, a persistent thorn in Putin’s side, was arrested on his return from Germany, where he had been recovering from a poisoning he claims was carried out by the Kremlin and the Russian security services, FSB.

The 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner was subsequently jailed for nearly three years, sparking nationwide protests that saw more than 10,000 people detained and led to allegations of police abuse.

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The merciless crackdown has been sharply criticised by Europe and the United States.

And the EU is considering imposing sanctions on Russia, putting even more strain on the bloc’s already fractious relations with Moscow.

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#Newsworthy

Alexei Navalny’s trail on slander kicks.

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Navalny’s detention on his return to Moscow sparked mass demonstrations across the country that saw police arrest 10,000 protesters.

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny went on trial Friday on charges of defaming a World War II veteran, days after being handed a nearly three-year prison term that sparked an international outcry.

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An AFP journalist said the 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner was present in the courtroom, standing inside a glass case for defendants.

Legal pressure has been mounting on Navalny and his allies since he returned in mid-January to Russia from Germany, where he had been recovering from a poisoning attack with the nerve agent Novichok.

He was ordered by a Moscow court this week to serve two years and eight months in prison for violating the terms of a 2014 suspended sentence on embezzlement charges he says were politically motivated.

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On Friday, Navalny was facing defamation charges for describing people — including the 95-year-old veteran — who appeared in a pro-Kremlin video as “the shame of the country” and “traitors” in a June tweet.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison and the court was not expected to pronounce a verdict Friday.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, charged with defaming a World War II veteran, stands inside a glass cell during a court hearing in Moscow on February 5, 2021. (Photo by Handout / Moscow’s Babushkinsky district court press service / AFP) /

Navalny’s detention on his return to Moscow sparked mass demonstrations across the country that saw police arrest 10,000 protesters.

On Thursday he called on his supporters to fight fear and liberate Russia from a leadership he described as a “handful of thieves”, while his aides said more protests were planned for later this year.

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The hearing came hours ahead of a planned meeting between the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in the first visit by a senior envoy from the bloc since 2017.

Borrell said ahead of the meeting that he would raise the issue of Navalny’s detention and the police crackdown on protesters.

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#Newsworthy

Russia ‘happy’ over police crackdown on Navalny supporters.

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Navalny’s arrest and the violent police crackdown has been condemned by international rights groups and Western governments, including the United States, Britain and France.

Russia on Wednesday defended its crackdown on protesters demanding the release of opposition figure Alexei Navalny as his allies vowed to continue putting pressure on the Kremlin.

Protest monitors said that more than 10,000 people were detained at recent nationwide rallies in support of President Vladimir Putin’s loudest critic, who was handed a prison term on Tuesday.

The verdict spurred Navalny’s supporters onto the streets of Moscow where riot police used batons to disperse the protesters who were detained en masse.

The Kremlin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that “the holding of unauthorised rallies raises concerns and justifies the tough actions of the police.”

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Demonstrations in more than one hundred cities across Russia were sparked last month by Navalny’s detention in a Moscow airport on arrival from Germany where he had been recovering after being poisoned in August.

On Tuesday, the 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner was given a jail term of two years and eight months for violating the terms of a 2014 suspended sentence on embezzlement charges he claims were a pretext to silence him.

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The case presented one of the most serious challenges to the Kremlin in years, with some in the West calling for new sanctions against Russia.

But Navalny’s jailing has also weakened Russia’s opposition movement now without its most prominent figure whose aides have also been seized by police.

Navalny’s wife Yulia said that “good, strong” people support her and her husband so there was no need to “retreat or be afraid”.

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“We will win anyway,” she wrote in an Instagram post.

Leonid Volkov, head of Navalny’s regional network, said earlier that even after the verdict on Tuesday, “everything is just beginning”.

“We will increase pressure on Putin… new investigations will come out. New peaceful rallies and marches will be held,” he wrote on Telegram.

In its most recent investigation, Navalny’s team accused Putin of having received as a gift an opulent palace on the Black Sea coast in a video that garnered more than 100 million views on YouTube.

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‘Harsh detentions’
The report spurred tens of thousands of demonstrators onto the streets over consecutive weekends last month, with protester chants and signs referencing the investigation.

The OVD-Info group that monitors opposition protests said Wednesday that more than 10,000 people had been seized by police at those rallies and the protests that followed the court hearing.

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Russia’s Union of Journalists said weighed in, noting that over 100 journalists were either injured or detained at rallies.

An analyst working for OVD-Info, Grigory Durnovo, told AFP that many of the detainees had been subjected to “difficult conditions” in custody and that authorities were purposefully carrying out “harsh detentions”.

He also noted that the group’s lawyers, who provide free legal aid to protesters, had been denied access to detention centres.

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The authorities “are openly demonstrating that a lawyer is perceived as an accomplice of the offender,” he said.

Echoing detainee testimonies, Durnovo said Moscow’s jails had reached full capacity due to the massive influx of Navalny supporters.

On Tuesday, the head of Russia’s Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, ordered checks of detained men to see if they have avoided military service, which in Russia is compulsory for one year.

Navalny’s arrest and the violent police crackdown has been condemned by international rights groups and Western governments, including the United States, Britain and France.

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Germany on Wednesday reiterated calls to free Navalny and said that more EU sanctions on Russia “cannot be ruled out”.

The UN Human Rights Office called for the release of protesters detained “for exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression”.

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#Newsworthy

Update: Prosecutors ‘yes’ Navalny be jailed.

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Russia in Global Affairs, which is seen as often reflecting Kremlin thinking

The jailing of Russian opposition figureRussia was likely to shrug off new sanctions. Alexei Navalny is corroding already damaged Europe-Russia ties but EU leaders are unwilling to cut all contact with President Vladimir Putin and risk sacrificing climate and security cooperation, analysts say.

The arrest of Navalny at a Moscow airport last month, following months of medical treatment in Germany, prompted an outcry from the European Union and key member states who believe he was poisoned in the summer by the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok.

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The tensions come at a period of turbulence in Russia unusual in Putin’s two-decade grip on power, with police arresting thousands in two successive weekends of mass nationwide protests in support of the Kremlin critic.

But analysts expect the EU to still keep talking to Putin, even if Navalny’s situation will further darken a climate already bedevilled by Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, claims of election meddling and alleged assassination plots on European territory.

“The arrest of Navalny may indeed lead to a further deterioration of EU-Russia ties and particularly those between Germany and Russia,” said Andras Racz and Milan Nic in a report on Russian foreign policy for the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP).

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They said that Moscow was “losing interest” in dealing with Europe while China under President Xi Jinping has emerged as “Russia’s sole great power partner in international affairs.”

Europe needs to “intelligently manage” a situation without any prospect of strategic improvement in the short or medium term but where there could be chances to cooperate on issues including global warming, the Arctic and the Covid-19 pandemic, they said.

‘Macron’s error’
In a key test for the temperature of relations, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell will travel to Russia on Thursday for talks in the first such visit since 2017.

The poisoning and subsequent imprisonment of Navalny have also largely derailed a bid by French President Emmanuel Macron for a rapprochement with Russia under Putin.

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The French leader’s main achievements have been limited to chairing a 2019 summit that helped a July 2020 ceasefire that has sharply reduced fighting in the east of Ukraine.

Further EU sanctions against senior Russian officials will now be on the agenda but the big question is if Germany is willing to put the Nordstream II gas pipeline project at stake.

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Putting the ball firmly in Berlin’s court and hinting of splits within the EU, France’s Europe Minister Clement Beaune told France Inter radio on Monday that Paris had the “greatest doubts” over the project and had already asked Berlin to scrap it.

This grab taken from a video made available on January 18, 2021 on Navalny team Youtube page shows Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaking while waiting for a court hearing at a police station in Khimki outside Moscow. – Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Monday urged Russians to stage mass anti-government protests during a court hearing after his arrest on arrival in Moscow from Germany. (Photo by Handout / Navalny team Youtube page / AFP) /

Francois Heisbourg, special advisor at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London and the Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS) in Paris, said the West was prepared to inflict more “reputational damage” on Russia with sanctions but would not go to the brink on the issue.

He said Macron and other European leaders were uneasy over Russia’s partnership with China and would like to see it disappear, “but the error of Macron is to believe the Europeans have the means to hasten this.”

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‘No choice’
Cyrille Bret, a lecturer at Sciences-Po university in Paris, said that while the West would defend freedom of expression in Russia as well as Navalny’s cause, security cooperation with Russia was still needed.

“We have no choice, Russia has a permanent seat on the UN security council and is invested in several essential formats, the Iranian nuclear agreements, the hypothetical political resolution of the conflict in Syria,” he said.

A similar approach is likely to be adopted by new US President Joe Biden, whose administration has been sharply critical of Russia over Navalny but also is keen to extend a landmark nuclear arms reduction agreement due to expire next month.

Upcoming votes add an additional factor of uncertainty, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel due to bow out after September polls and Russia facing potentially tense parliamentary elections the same month.

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In Moscow, Fyodor Lukyanov, editor in chief of the journal Russia in Global Affairs, which is seen as often reflecting Kremlin thinking, said Russia was likely to shrug off new sanctions.

But he added: “If this pressure continues, it will not work. It will only harden the conviction that the West wants to hinder Russia and that everything must be done to retaliate.”

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#Newsworthy

Just in: Over 5,300 ‘detained’ in Russia Pro-Navalny protest.

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The 44-year-old opposition figure is facing charges of violating the terms of a 2014 suspended sentence and could be jailed for two-and-a-half years.

Russian police detained more than 5,300 people across the country in a massive clampdown on anti-Kremlin protests, a monitor said Monday, as prosecutors backed a request to imprison opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

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On Sunday, thousands of protesters defied government warnings and rallied from Vladivostok to Saint Petersburg in the second weekend of mass demonstrations over the arrest of President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent opponent.

Police detain a man during a rally in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow on January 31, 2021. – Navalny, 44, was detained on January 17 upon returning to Moscow after five months in Germany recovering from a near-fatal poisoning with a nerve agent and later jailed for 30 days while awaiting trial for violating a suspended sentence he was handed in 2014. (Photo by Alexander NEMENOV / AFP)

OVD Info, which monitors arrests at opposition protests, said more than 5,300 people had been detained including nearly 1,800 people in Moscow and almost 1,200 in Saint Petersburg, Russia’s second city.

The protests — that saw authorities enforce a rare lockdown of the centre of Moscow — came ahead of a high-profile court hearing that could see Navalny imprisoned for several years.

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The 44-year-old opposition figure is facing charges of violating the terms of a 2014 suspended sentence and could be jailed for two-and-a-half years.

On Monday, the General Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement it backed a request by the prison service to change Navalny’s suspended sentence to a real one.

“This motion is considered lawful and justified,” the statement said.

Navalny was detained at a Moscow airport in mid-January after flying back to Russia from Germany where he was recovering from an August poisoning with a nerve agent he blames on the Kremlin.

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The anti-corruption campaigner is being held in a high-security detention centre and faces years of potential jail time in several different criminal cases, despite calls from Western governments for his release.

Navalny’s team has urged supporters to gather in front of Moscow’s Simonovsky district court in a show of support for the opposition politician on Tuesday.

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#Newsworthy

Russia population for first time ‘shrinks’ in 15 years.

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The data reported on Tuesday by the daily newspaper Dziennik Gazeta Prawna came from a state register that includes weekly births and deaths.

Russia’s population shrank by about half a million last year, its first contraction in 15 years, the country’s statistics agency said on Friday.

Russia has a population of 146.2 million, according to newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta, citing the agency.

There were 229,700 more deaths between January and November 2020 than in the same period the previous year, an excess mortality rate of more than 13 percent, the agency said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has long called for greater efforts towards population growth. Last year, he blamed the trend on low incomes.

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Experts say further causes are the migration of younger, well-educated people abroad and the low birth rate.

Similar trends
This month, statistics from Poland and the United Kingdom, have shown similar trends.

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On Tuesday, statistics for 2020 showed deaths spiking in Poland to a level unseen since World War II and births sharply decline, trends attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic and described by some as a demographic crisis.

Commenting on data the state agency Statistics Poland released in December for 11 months of 2020, economist Rafal Mundry said the number of deaths was the highest since World War II and the number of births the lowest in 15 years.

“We have a huge demographic crisis,” Mundry said on Twitter.

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In 2019, some 30,000 people died in Poland each month on average. In November, when COVID-19 cases spiked, the country registered almost 60,400 deaths.

In the UK, a study published on January 14 suggested it could be the largest population decline since World War II, citing the pandemic.

Faced with bleak employment opportunities, expatriates have been leaving the UK in large numbers, according to the UK’s Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence (ESCoE).

About 1.3 million people born abroad left the UK from July 2019 to September 2020, it said.

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Meanwhile, Brexit also appeared to have an impact in motivating people to leave Britain, with some Al Jazeera interviewed citing the UK’s divorce from the European Union as a push factor.

In London, the ESCoE said, as many as 700,000 people left the capital in the 14 months analysed.

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#Newsworthy

Nerve Agent Found in Russia’s Navalny: Germany

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Novichok, a Soviet-era chemical weapon, was used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom.


Tests performed on samples taken from prominent Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny showed the presence of the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok, the German government said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said in a statement on Wednesday testing by a special German military laboratory had shown “proof without doubt of a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group”.

“It is a dismaying event that Alexey Navalny was the victim of an attack with a chemical nerve agent in Russia,” Seibert said. “The German government condemns this attack in the strongest terms. The Russian government is urgently requested to provide clarifications over the incident.”

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was not informed of the German findings and had no such data, Noble Reporters Media gathered

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas urged Moscow to investigate the poisoning, and said the Russian ambassador had been summoned to explain the evidence.

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“This makes it all the more urgent that those responsible in Russia be identified and held accountable,” Maas told reporters. “We condemn this attack in the strongest terms.”

Novichok – a military grade nerve agent – was used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the United Kingdom.

The Charite hospital in Berlin, where Navalny is being treated, has reported “some improvement” in his condition, but he remains in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator.

Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny takes part in a rally in Moscow, Russia, in February [Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters]

‘Joint response’

Navalny, 44, a politician and corruption investigator who is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics, fell ill on a flight back to Moscow from Siberia on August 20 and was taken to a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk after the plane made an emergency landing.

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He was later transferred to Charite hospital, where doctors last week said there were indications he had been poisoned.

Seibert said the German government would inform its partners in the European Union and NATO about the Novichok test results. He said it would consult with its partners in light of the Russian response “on an appropriate joint response”.

Navalny’s allies in Russia have insisted he was deliberately poisoned by the country’s authorities, accusations the Kremlin rejected as “empty noise”.

“To poison Navalny with Novichok in 2020 would be exactly the same as leaving an autograph at a crime scene, like this one,” Navalny’s longtime ally and strategist Leonid Volkov said in a tweet that featured a photo of Putin’s name and a signature next to it.

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The Russian doctors who treated Navalny in Siberia have repeatedly contested the German hospital’s conclusion, saying they ruled out poisoning as a diagnosis and their tests for poisonous substances came back negative.

German hospital: Clinical findings point to Navalny’s poisoning (4:07)

Reporting from Moscow, Noble Reporters Media learnt Russia’s response was so far “cautious and restrained”.

“The Russian doctors released Navalny with a ‘metabolic disorder’ diagnosis. Two labs in Russia didn’t find anything suspicious and a pre-investigation didn’t find anything leading to foul play,” she said. “On the other hand, the opposition is saying, ‘We knew [it was Novichok] – all the symptoms are there.'”

Is the Russian opposition finished?
Novichok is a deadly group of nerve agents developed by the Soviet military in the 1970s and ’80s. It is a cholinesterase inhibitor, part of the class of substances that doctors at the Charite initially identified in Navalny.

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“Only the state [FSB, GRU] can use Novichok. This is beyond any reasonable doubt,” Ivan Zhdanov, director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, said on Twitter, referring to the FSB internal security and GRU military intelligence services.

READ MORE: In: Russian medics accept Nalvany evacuation.

The Navalny case has drawn parallels with two suspected Kremlin-linked poisonings in the UK.

British authorities identified Novichok as the poison used in 2018 on former Russian spy Skripal and his daughter in Salsbury, England.

In 2006, Putin was blamed for the radiation poisoning death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in the British capital.


#Newsworthy…