MOSCOW: A judge ordered Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny to be jailed for 30 days, pending a trial, after a rushed court hearing on Monday inside a police station, in an extraordinary move by Russian authorities within a day of his return from Germany.
Moments after the judge announced her decision, Navalny called for protests in a video message to his supporters. One of his top aides, Leonid Volkov, said Navalny’s nationwide network was preparing to organise demonstrations across Russia on Saturday. “Do not be afraid,” Navalny said in the video, which he had recorded in a makeshift courtroom set up in a police station meeting room. “Take to the streets. Don’t do it for me, do it for yourselves and for your future.”
The fast-paced events came the day after Navalny, who spent months in Berlin recovering from a near-deadly poisoning, was arrested at a Moscow airport on accusations of violating the terms of an earlier suspended prison sentence. He spent the night at a police stationHe faced a judge not in a courtroom, but inside the police station in Khimki, where he was being held. A lawyer for Navalny, Vadim Kobzev, said he was notified of the hearing minutes before it started. Several hours after the hearing began, Kobzev said that Navalny had been ordered jailed until February 15, pending trial on charges of violating the terms of an earlier suspended prison sentence. Photographs posted by Kobzev showed a makeshift courtroom. In a video posted to Navalny’s Telegram account, he said: “What is happening here is impossible. This is the highest degree of lawlessness.”
Condemnation of Navalny’s arrest poured in from the UN and just about every major Western capital, but the Russia dismissed the criticism. “We are not a lady coming out to a ball,” foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said during a news conference, responding to a question about the damage done to Russia’s international image. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for the immediate release of Navalny. In the US, both the departing and incoming administrations also called for Navalny’s release. Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said, “The Russian authorities must immediately release him and ensure his safety.”