Alexei Navalny mocks judge in defamation trial that 'makes no sense'

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Nataliya Vasilyeva
·2 min read
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Alexei Navalny has been behind bars since his returned to Russia from Germany in mid-January - EPA-EFE/EPA-EFE
Alexei Navalny has been behind bars since his returned to Russia from Germany in mid-January - EPA-EFE/EPA-EFE

A Russian prosecutor portrayed Alexei Navalny as a Nazi sympathiser at the close of his trial for defaming a Second World War veteran.

The Russian opposition leader, who is already in prison on separate charges, was accused of making disparaging remarks about a dozen people who had appeared in a pro-Kremlin propaganda video.

Mr Navalny referred to the citizens who praised a constitutional amendment last year removing presidential term limits as "lackeys and traitors".

The 44-year-old, who nearly died from nerve agent poisoning before he was airlifted to Germany, was sentenced to nearly three years in prison earlier this month for violating the terms of his probation.

The defamation charges cannot add any more jail time to Mr Navalny's sentence but have provided fodder for state television to vilify the chief foe of President Vladimir Putin.

Yekaterina Frolova, the lead prosecutor, on Tuesday spoke of Mr Navalny’s nationalist leanings in his youth and referred to recent cases of violence against veterans as allegedly perpetrated by Mr Navalny’s supporters.

“His intention was not only to insult but to deliberately spread anti-patriotic ideology and foster hatred between generations,” she told the court on Tuesday.

The prosecutor compared the jailed politician to Gen. Andrey Vlasov, Russia’s best-known Nazi collaborator, saying that Mr Navalny’s remarks were “part of a campaign to destroy the truth about our history and victory in the war.”

Russian state TV used the trial to dismiss Mr Navalny as a Nazi sympathiser.

Vladimir Solovyev, described as one of Russia’s best propagandists, in his afternoon talk show on Tuesday devoted to the Navalny trial said that “Hitler was a brave person: he never dodged the army draft like Navalny.”

Mr Navalny's return to Russia and his subsequent jailing have sparked the country’s biggest wave of protests in a decade with thousands of people rallying across Russia’s 11 time zones, while the European Union is mulling over potential sanctions against the Kremlin.

In the Moscow court Mr Navalny said that the defamation case is the most absurd of all criminal charges he has faced in the past.

Unlike his attorney, Mr Navalny, a lawyer by training, refused to go into legal details of the case and instead joked about receiving parcels of cucumbers and salt in his cell.

“Every second of this trial makes no sense from the legal point of view,” he said from the glass cage that he was kept in.

“Your Honour, do you by any chance know a good recipe for pickled cucumbers since it makes no sense talking legal matters to you.”

The hearings were adjourned until Saturday when Mr Navalny is expected in court both for the verdict in the defamation case as well as an appeal of his three-year jailing.