Australia joins calls for Navalny release

Kremlin Critic Navalny Faces Court Hearing, Could See 3.5 Years In Prison

The widely anticipated ruling, which followed nationwide protests calling for Navalny's release, is likely to further strain relations with the West, which is likely to consider imposing sanctions on Russian Federation over its handling of the case.

In his 15-minute speech before the verdict was announced, Mr. Navalny called on Russians not to be intimidated by his imprisonment or by the show of force by police on the streets.

"They are putting one person behind bars to scare millions", Navalny said.

"I very much hope that people won't see this trial as a signal that they should be more afraid".

CNN reporters witnessed police detaining dozens of people outside the court before the hearing had begun. Amnesty has recognized Navalny as a "prisoner of conscience".

Police detained more protesters outside the courtroom on Tuesday, with OVD-Info, a group that monitors arrests and opposition protests, saying more than 300 people including journalists had been detained.

"He can pretend he is this big politician, the world leader, but now my main offense to him is that he will go down in history as Putin the Poisoner".

The Spanish diplomat is expected to raise Navalny's detention during talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday.

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Navalny led street protests in 2011 after the presidential election, and said the process was a fraud. The video has been viewed over 100 million times, fuelling discontent as ordinary Russians struggle with an economic downturn, the coronavirus pandemic and widespread corruption during Putin's years in office.

Putin denied that he was the owner of the property, and last week, a billionaire businessman close to him, Arkady Rutenberg, said he was the owner of the property, confirming that he was converting it into a hotel.

As part of efforts to squelch the protests, the authorities have targeted Navalny's associates and activists across the country.

Over the course of two weeks, several Navalny allies were also detained and key aides have been placed on house arrest pending criminal charges.

"Sweden and the European Union are concerned about the situation with democracy, civil society and human rights in Russia", Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde, the current chair of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said during talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow.

"Today's perverse ruling, targeting the victim of a poisoning rather than those responsible, shows Russian Federation is failing to meet the most basic commitments expected of any responsible member of the worldwide community". Who gave U.S. the right to judge if it was wrongful or not? "Recent events show that there are a lot of things for you to mend!", Russia's deputy United Nations ambassador Dmitry Polyansky said on Twitter.

"The explanation is one man's hatred and fear - one man hiding in a bunker", Mr. Navalny said in a clear reference to Mr. Putin, whom opposition supporters have taken to calling "the grandpa in the bunker".

"We're going to the centre of Moscow right now", it wrote on Twitter, urging supporters to join them.

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