From poisoning to penal colony: the Navalny affair

On Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights, which has called for his release, condemned Moscow for failing to investigate his poisoning.

Russia’s top opposition politician, Alexei Navalny, survived a dramatic poisoning attack in 2020 that he blamed on President Vladimir Putin only to be sent to a penal colony when he recovered.

On Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights, which has called for his release, condemned Moscow for failing to investigate his poisoning.

Navalny affair

AFP looks back at the main developments in the affair.

  • August 2020: coma –
    Anti-corruption campaigner Navalny, who led mass protests against the Kremlin, is hospitalised on August 20, 2020, in Omsk, Siberia, after losing consciousness during a flight.

ALSO READ: Jailed Kremlin critic Navalny calls on France to vote for Macron

Put into a medically induced coma, Navalny, then aged 44, is transferred two days later to a Berlin hospital at his family’s request.

  • Sept. 2020: Novichok detected –
    Berlin says that tests carried out by a German army laboratory yielded “unequivocal evidence” that he was poisoned with Novichok, a Soviet-era chemical weapon used against former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England in 2018.
  • Sept. 2020: Putin accused –
    Navalny emerges from the coma on September 7 and is discharged from hospital two weeks later.

He accuses Putin of being behind his poisoning.

The Kremlin calls his claims “groundless and unacceptable”.

  • Oct 2020: first sanctions –
    The European Union, the United Kingdom and Norway impose sanctions on several top Russian officials.
  • Dec. 2020: confession –
    Navalny releases a recording in October of him tricking a Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) agent into confessing that he tried to kill him.
  • Jan 2021: return to Russia –
    Navalny returns to Russia, declaring he is “not afraid” of what fate awaits him. He is detained shortly after landing at Moscow airport.

ALSO READ: Russian opposition leader Navalny sentenced to 9 years in jail

Tens of thousands of people demonstrate across the country for his release.

  • February 2021: jailed –
    He is handed a two-and-a-half year sentence for breaching the conditions of a previous sentence and sent to a penal colony about 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of Moscow.

Washington joins the round of sanctions on senior Russian officials.

  • Apr 2021: supporters targeted –
    Judges designate Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) as extremist.

In June 2021, Putin signs a law banning people working for what are considered extremist organisations from standing in elections, in a move apparently targeted at Navalny’s supporters.

  • Oct 2021: EU prize –
    On October 20, the European Parliament awards Navalny its prestigious Sakharov rights prize, which commemorates Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov.

ALSO READ: Russia seeks new jail term for opposition leader Navalny

Moscow in January 2022 puts Navalny and several of his allies on its terrorist database.

  • March 2022: nine-year sentence –
    On March 22, 2022, shortly before he is due for release, Navalny is handed a nine-year prison sentence on embezzlement and other charges that will keep him behind bars.

He is transferred to a prison around 250 kilometres east of Moscow, from where he regularly denounces the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

  • April 2023: life in prison ? –
    On April 26, 2023, he says he faces up to life in prison due to new extremism and “terrorism” charges, in a new trial to be heard by a military tribunal.

ALSO READ: A year after arrest, Navalny says no ‘regret’ about return to Russia

Navalny, who turned 47 this week, calls the charges “absurd”.

  • June 2023: European court condemnation –
    The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday condemns Russia for failing to properly investigate the poisoning of Navalny, including the “possible involvement of state agents”.

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