(Reuters) – Jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny, on trial on extremism charges that could see him imprisoned for decades, on Tuesday wondered wryly why he was a greater threat to Russia than the mercenaries who had launched an armed mutiny. In tweets posted by his aides, Navalny said he had been allowed no radio or […]
After Wagner mutiny, jailed Kremlin critic Navalny asks who is the real extremist?
(Reuters) – Jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny, on trial on extremism charges that could see him imprisoned for decades, on Tuesday wondered wryly why he was a greater threat to Russia than the mercenaries who had launched an armed mutiny.
In tweets posted by his aides, Navalny said he had been allowed no radio or conversations in his penal colony since June 1.
So he thought his lawyers were teasing him when they told him before a session of his trial about the Wagner militia’s aborted weekend mutiny against military chiefs, in which an armed convoy drove to within 200 km (120 miles) of Moscow.
“Instead the prosecutor came in and we continued the trial in which I stand accused of forming an organization to overthrow President (Vladimir) Putin by violent means,” Navalny said.
“While listening to how the ACF (his Anti-Corruption Foundation) are extremists who are dangerous for the country, I read about how one group of Russian troops ‘took positions on the Oka river’ to defend themselves against another group of Russian troops.
“I kept waiting for the prosecutor herself to finally burst out laughing and shout: it’s all a prank, you should have seen your face, Navalny! But she was absolutely serious.”
Navalny rose to prominence by lampooning President Vladimir Putin’s elite and alleging vast state corruption, and says his war has inflicted pain on millions of innocent Ukrainians.
He blamed Putin squarely for the mutiny by the Wagner mercenary force that was allowed to recruit hardened convicts in exchange for promises of pardon and that the president allowed to become powerful.
“It wasn’t the West or the opposition that shot down Russian helicopters over Russia. It wasn’t the ACF that brought Russia to the brink of civil war,” he said.
“It was Putin personally who did this … he personally pardoned all those convicts who were on their way to assassinate (Defence Minister Sergei) Shoigu and whoever else they wanted to kill …
“The fact that Putin’s war could ruin and disintegrate Russia is no longer a dramatic exclamation.”
Navalny is serving 11-1/2 years for fraud and contempt of court on charges that he says were trumped up to silence him.
He is now on trial on charges including creation of an extremist organisation and making public appeals to commit extremist activity.
Putin agreed that the mutineers would not be charged.
(Writing by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)