Alexei Navalny, Subject Of Oscar-Winning Documentary, Gets 19 Years Tacked Onto Russian Prison Sentence

The fate of Alexei Navalny, the jailed Russian opposition leader whose story was told in the Oscar-winning documentary Navalny, has become even more grim.

A court in Russia sentenced Navalny today to another 19 years in prison on charges of “extremism,” according to reports in Russian state media. That sentence will be tacked onto a nine-year term he is already serving after his conviction on a variety of charges seen as bogus and politically motivated by critics of the Kremlin. Navalny ran afoul of Vladimir Putin by accusing the Russian president and his cronies of corruption and incompetence.

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Navalny, who has been serving his sentence in a penal colony 150 miles east of Moscow, had anticipated a harsh judgment. In a statement posted to his Telegram social media account on Thursday, Navalny wrote, “The term will be long, what is called ‘Stalinist.’ The formula for calculating it is simple: what the prosecutor asked for, minus 10-15%. They asked for 20, they give 18 or something like that.” He predicted he will eventually get an additional 10-year sentence for a pending charge of terrorism.

Roher’s film documents the potent political movement Navalny built in Russia through his anti-corruption campaign. The Kremlin, fearing his rising popularity and chagrined by his attacks, allegedly cooked up a plot to poison him with the military-grade nerve agent Novichok. Navalny fell deathly ill in August 2020 while returning to Moscow on a flight from a Siberian city. Eventually, he was flown to Germany for treatment, where he slowly recovered.

Navalny shows him investigating his own poisoning with the help of journalist Christo Grozev. In one dramatic scene in the film, Navalny phones a scientist suspected of involvement in the assassination plot and — while pretending to be a government official – induces the man to admit to the near fatal scheme. 

In January 2021 Navalny returned to Russia, landing at a Moscow area airport. He was immediately arrested upon his arrival and has remained behind bars ever since.

Roher attended the Academy Awards in March with Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, and the Navalnys’ children. After Navalny was announced as the winner of Best Documentary Feature, he brought the family onto the stage with him. In perhaps the single most dramatic moment of the Oscar telecast, Roher invited Navalnaya to address the audience. “My husband is in prison just for telling the truth. My husband is in prison just for defending democracy,” she said, adding, “Alexei, I’m dreaming of the day when you will be free and our country will be free. Stay strong.”

Roher, in his comments on the Oscar stage, dedicated his victory to Navalny and “to all political prisoners around the world. Alexei, the world has not forgotten your vital message to us all. We cannot, we must not be afraid to oppose dictators and authoritarianism wherever it rears its head.”

Navalny was initially locked up a year before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The ongoing war has seen the Kremlin treat political dissent even more harshly than before. In April, activist and journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza was sentenced to 25 years in prison on a charge of treason after he criticized Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Opposition political figure Ilya Yashin was slapped with an eight-and-a-half-year prison sentence in December 2022 for highlighting alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine.

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