Wed. Apr 24th, 2024

Dozens of individuals detained at gatherings commemorating the late Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny have been handed short prison sentences by Russian courts, according to official court announcements.

Saint Petersburg alone saw 154 individuals sentenced, as revealed by details of rulings published by the city’s court service over the weekend. The sentences, ranging up to 14 days, were issued for violating Russia’s stringent anti-protest laws. Similar sentences were reported by rights groups and independent media outlets in various cities across the country.

Navalny, a 47-year-old Kremlin critic, passed away on Friday at the Arctic prison colony where he was incarcerated on charges widely perceived as retaliation for his activism against President Vladimir Putin. Over the weekend, police arrested hundreds of Russians in multiple cities who had gathered to pay respects to Navalny by laying flowers and lighting candles at memorials dedicated to victims of Stalin-era repressions.

In Russia, anti-Kremlin demonstrations or public displays of opposition to the regime are effectively illegal under strict military censorship regulations and laws prohibiting unauthorized rallies. Throughout the weekend, police and plainclothes officers monitored sites where people had assembled to honor Navalny. Reports emerged of pop-up memorials being dismantled overnight, with footage showing hooded individuals collecting flowers in bin bags on a bridge near the Kremlin, where another prominent Putin critic, Boris Nemtsov, was assassinated in 2015.

Amid Navalny’s death, which coincided with Putin’s impending reelection bid for another six-year term in the Kremlin, supporters both domestically and internationally expressed grief and outrage. As of Sunday, Russian authorities had not granted Navalny’s mother or legal team access to his body, sparking fury among his supporters, who accused the Russian state of attempting to conceal evidence.

President Putin has yet to address the demise of his most vocal critic, and the Kremlin has remained silent since Friday evening, when it criticized Western leaders for holding Putin accountable. Tributes to Navalny, who survived a poisoning attempt in 2020 only to return to Russia and face imprisonment, continued to flood in on Sunday. Leonid Volkov, Navalny’s chief of staff and close aide, lamented Navalny’s desire for a “normal” Russia and accused Putin of being complicit in his death, citing alleged poisoning, imprisonment, torture, and ultimately, death.

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