Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has been sentenced to nine years in a maximum-security jail, according to Russian state-owned news agency Tass.
A prominent Kremlin critic, Navalny was convicted on fraud charges by the Lefortovo court in Moscow over allegations that he stole from his Anti-Corruption Foundation, CNN reported.
Navalny is currently serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence in a detention center east of the Russian capital after being arrested in February 2021 for violating probation terms, a verdict he said was politically motivated.
Tuesday's sentence was handed down at the Pokrov penal colony by a visiting session of the Lefortovo court.
“Navalny committed fraud, i.e. the theft of someone else's property by deception,” Judge Margarita Kotova read out in the verdict, Tass reported.
Russian opposition leader and activist Alexei Navalny (R) is seen on a monitor screen during an offsite court session in the penal colony N2 (IK-2) in Pokrov, Vladimir region, Russia, on March 22.
While the judge read out the accusations against him, the 45-year-old Navalny cut a gaunt figure beside his lawyers in a room filled with prison security officials. He appeared unfazed, flicking through court documents laid out on a table in front of him.
The opposition leader was detained in February 2021 after his arrival in Moscow from Berlin, Germany, where he had spent several months recovering from poisoning with nerve agent Novichok — an attack he blames on Russian security services and on Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.
In January, Russia added Navalny and his top aides to the “extremist and terrorist” federal registry, according to the Russian Federal Service for Financial Monitoring. His Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) was also banned by the Russian courts last year as an “extremist” organization.
While in prison, Navalny has denounced Russia's invasion of Ukraine via social media, advocating anti-war protests across the country as “the backbone of the movement against war and death,” according to Reuters.
In the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine almost a month ago, thousands of people were detained for anti-war demonstrations, including in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
The guilty verdict handed to Navalny comes amid a growing crackdown on political dissent in Russia.
Earlier this month, Putin signed a censorship bill into law making it impossible for news organizations to accurately report the news in or from Russia.
The law, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, makes it a crime to disseminate “fake” information about the invasion of Ukraine, with a penalty of up to 15 years in prison for anyone convicted.
Last year, concerns about Navalny's health were raised by his allies after he underwent a weekslong hunger strike demanding “proper medical care” — something his team claims he was unable to get in the penal colony in Pokrov.
Days after ending his hunger strike in April, Navalny's network of regional offices for his political movement were “officially disbanded,” according to his chief of staff Leonid Volkov.