On Sunday, Alexei Navalny , the imprisoned leader of Russia’s opposition, spoke out in support of a better Russia. His supporters staged pickets to celebrate his 47th birthday.
Navalny has been sentenced to a 9-year sentence, for fraud and contempt. He claims that the charges were made up in order to punish him for his efforts to expose corruption within government and organize anti-Kremlin demonstrations.
A new trial is scheduled for him on charges of extremism, which could land him in jail for decades. Kremlin opponents see the case as an attempt by the Russian government to isolate Vladimir Putin’s biggest foe.
Navalny’s associates have called for demonstrations in Russia and abroad to show their support for him on Sunday.
Some Navalny supporters risked their own jail terms by pickingeting on his birthday, while others painted graffiti. Many were detained for questioning by the police, who also increased their presence in central Moscow.
In several European cities, there were demonstrations in support of the Navy.
Navalny stated in a post on social media released by his supporters that he would prefer to celebrate his birthday with his family, gifts and kisses. However, “life is so that a certain amount of people will pay for their right to believe.”
He said that the more people like this, the less each person has to pay. “And there will come a time when telling the truth and standing up for justice will not be dangerous and will become routine in Russia.”
Initially, he received a 2-1/2-year sentence in prison for violating parole. He was sentenced last year to nine years in prison for fraud and contempt. He is currently in a maximum security prison located 250 kilometers (150miles) east of Moscow.
Navalny’s extremism charges, which could land him in jail for 30 years if proven, are based on the activities of his foundation against corruption and statements made by his closest associates. His allies claim that the charges criminalize the activities of Navalny’s foundation retroactively since it was created in 2011.
The court in Moscow scheduled a hearing on Tuesday to discuss the technical aspects of a new trial for Navalny. It rejected a request from his lawyers to have more time to review the voluminous charges he had dismissed as “absurd”.
Navalny cites an investigator who told him that he would also face a separate trial before a military court on terrorism-related charges, which could carry a potential life sentence.
In a Sunday social media post, he said that his prison sentence was “just an unpleasant part of the job I love” and thanked all his supporters.
“My plan was to not become brutal or embittered, and to not lose the nonchalance in my behavior — this is the beginning of defeat,” he wrote. “And if i succeeded, it’s only because of your support.”