For the first time since the end of his hunger strike, the Russian opposition leader Navalny has been on display again. Through a video connection, he attended a hearing from prison about a fine in a libel case. Despite the moderate image quality, it was seen that the shaved Navalny looked skinny and gray, journalists report.
“ When I was taken to the bathhouse yesterday, I could see myself in the mirror. I look like a scary skeleton,” said Navalny, who says he weighs 72 kilos. “If I had taken my clothes off, it would have been a lot worse.”
Navalny about his condition during the session:
Navalny had gone on a hunger strike in prison because he wanted to be treated by his own doctor. He was sentenced to 2.5 years of prison camp in February because he had flown to Germany without permission after poisoning. That was against the agreements under which he was paroled after a previous conviction.
Navalny ended his hunger strike following authorities commitments earlier this month. Since then, he has carefully started eating again, he reported in court. “Yesterday I had four spoons of porridge, the same today. Ten will be a breakthrough. I have submitted a request for 60 grams of carrots, but that is still under consideration.”
Earlier, the opposition leader had been fined for calling a World War II veteran from a Putin commercial a traitor and unscrupulous. Today, the appeal filed in that case. Navalny himself speaks of a political persecution, intended to further blacken him.
Prohibition of organisation
Today it also became clear that another judge will see if Navalnys entire organization will be banned on May 17. The Russian DA has asked for the opposition group to be declared extremist, thus falling in the same line as IS and Al-Qaeda. In this way, the most important opposition group in Russia would be silenced with one stone.
The first hearing on this was last Monday. The judge then decided that Navalnys team should immediately suspend all his work pending the verdict. Team members were not allowed to publish any more online, no more protests, and their bank accounts were frozen.
Pending an expected ban, many Navalny employees have already closed regional offices and taken social media accounts offline. Some of the supporters have migrated abroad.
“ We cant work like that. Thats why were dismantling our network,” said Navalnys chief of staff Leonid Volkov about the imminent verdict. “But there are dozens of strong local politicians and thousands of supporters. They will overcome.”
Volkov and Ivan Zhdanov, another employee of Navalny, said earlier this week in a joint comment that 2021 will become “the most difficult year” for Navalnys team. According to them, “the darkest time for free-thinking people, for civil society in Russia” has come. “In fact, the Kremlin has just demanded that anyone who is not on their side be labelled as extremist.”
EU foreign chief Josep Borrell said Tuesday that the prosecution of Navalnys organization is in breach of Russias international obligations. “I urge the Russian authorities to reconsider recent decisions and put an end to their systematic harsh action against fundamental rights,” said Borrell.
Not only Navalnys organization was tackled this week. Critical media in Russia have also had to endure a lot. One of the last independent news sites, Meduza, received the stamp of foreign agent this week. According to the editors, this does not only deter advertisers – the main source of income – but many people no longer want to talk to journalists because they are perceived by the stamp as enemies of the state.
Furthermore, several Russian journalists from Echo Moskvy and Dozhd were arrested this week because they reported last week on the Navalny protests. The journalists wore yellow vests and had press cards with them, as was mandatory. Nevertheless, they now have to answer in court for participating in an illegal demonstration.