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Putin critic Navalny calls for anti-Moscow campaign as trial on extremism begins

Imprisoned Vladimir Putin critic and Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, on Monday, called on his supporters to campaign against Moscow’s actions on Ukraine as his trial got underway on extremism charges that could land him behind bars for an additional 30 years.

Navalny’s trial took place in Penal Colony No. 6, a maximum-security facility in Melekhovo, which is located about 150 miles east of Moscow.

The anti-Russian leader is currently being held in the facility on charges of fraud and contempt of court, which he argues are politically motivated.

Although Navalny demanded a judge keep the trial open to the public, it was closed shortly after starting.

PUTIN CRITIC NAVALNY SAYS RUSSIA HAS LAUNCHED ‘ABSURD’ NEW CASE AGAINST HIM THAT THREATENS MORE JAIL TIME

Alexei Navalny taking off his coat

FILE – Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny prepares to speak to journalists outside a courtroom in Moscow, Russia, after his appeal against the country’s top investigative agency was rejected on Wednesday, March 13, 2013.  (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

The closing meant reporters were not allowed in the courtroom, though they could watch the proceeding on video in a separate building. Navalny’s parents were also not permitted to attend the hearing in person.

While urging the courts to leave the hearing open, Navalny and his attorneys claimed authorities were making efforts to suppress the details because of the case’s weakness.

“The investigators, the prosecutors and the authorities in general don’t want the public to know about the trial,” Navalny said.

UNITED NATIONS CONDEMNS ‘SUMMARY EXECUTION OF PRISONERS OF WAR’ BY BOTH RUSSIA, UKRAINE 

Navalny Trial June 19, 2023

A view of a TV Screen showing Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, 2nd left, via video link provided by the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service, during a preliminary hearing, in Melekhovo, Vladimir region on Monday, June 19, 2023. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Navalny’s father, Anatoly Navalny, told reporters the decision to have a closed trial showed “the utter lack of shame, conscience and dignity.”

Navalny’s allies posted a statement from him on social media, in which he declared the court’s decision to close the trial was a sign of fear from Putin. Navalny also announced a new campaign against Moscow’s decision to send troops to Ukraine.

He called on his supporters to reach out to millions to expose and “combat Putin’s lies and the Kremlin’s hypocrisy,” arguing that the campaign could be executed using non-government-controlled messaging apps.

Alexei Navalny court appearance

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is seen on a TV screen as he appears by video link in a Moscow courtroom on Wednesday, April 26. (AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

“No one but us could enter this fight for our citizens’ hearts and minds, so we need to do it and win,” Navalny said.

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In 2021, Navalny was jailed after he returned to Russia following an incident where he was poisoned. At the time, Navalny received medical treatment in Germany. He blamed the attack, which involved a Soviet-era nerve agent, on Russian President Putin.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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