Kremlin Critic Alexey Navalny Makes First Appearance In Court Following The End Of Hunger Strike

April 29, 2021

By Kana Ruhalter

Alexey Navalny, jailed Kremlin dissident, appeared in court for the first time since the end of his hunger strike, reportedly looking emaciated. The court hearing, conducted via video link, ultimately ended with a Moscow judge upholding the defamation conviction of the critic. 

The activist went on a hunger strike in prison on March 31st, demanding medical care. The strike ended when he was finally granted the medical attention he needed. Navalny, who weighed 94 kilograms in January, spoke of his dramatic weight loss, saying, “I looked at myself. I’m just an awful skeleton. Last time I weighed 72 kilos, I was probably in the second grade.” 

Navalny took the opportunity to fiercely denounce President Vladimir Putin and his government, comparing the dictator to the foolish “naked king” from children’s tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” He continued the verbal attack, calling the judge and prosecutors “traitors.” 

"I would like to say that your king is naked, and more than one little boy is shouting about it -- it is now millions of people who are already shouting about it. It is quite obvious. Twenty years of incompetent rule have come to this: there is a crown sliding from his ears," Navalny said of Putin.

The Kremlin critic has accused the government of attempting to take his life by poisoning him with Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent. Though he was in Germany recovering from the failed effort to kill him, Navalny was jailed for breaking parole conditions by failing to report to parole officers. The government has denied all accusations of attempting to kill Navalny. 

Navalny was found guilty in court for defaming a World War II veteran on February 20. He made the alleged defaming comments last June by taking to social media to criticize the state TV channel "RT." The broadcast repeatedly supported the controversial new changes to the Russian constitution, including one amendment that will allow Putin to stay in office until 2036, in addition to his past two-decade-long term. 

Navalny’s lawyer, Olga Mikhailova, said in a statement that “given the number of violations” in handling this case, her client will appeal the decision in the European Court of Human Rights.