Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny faces new criminal charges of creating an “extremist organization” and fueling hatred against authorities that could see his existing jail term extended by 15 more years, he has said.
The latest charges come on the heels of his March sentencing to nine years, raising fears among allies and supporters that authorities could be seeking to keep Navalny, 45, in prison for life on what they call politically motivated charges.
Navalny said he was officially notified that the extremism charges were brought against him on Tuesday.
“It turns out that I have created an extremist organization with an intent to fuel hatred against government workers and oligarchs,” Navalny wrote in a message posted to Twitter and Instagram.
Russian authorities banned Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation and nationwide political network as “extremist” organizations in summer 2021. Both peaceful opposition groups self-dissolved following the designation to protect employees from prosecution.
Navalny was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison in February 2021 after recovering abroad from a near-fatal poisoning he says was carried out on the Kremlin’s orders. His jailing sparked nationwide protests in which thousands were detained.
“When I was jailed, I had the nerve to be dissatisfied with it [...] and called for protests. For that, I ought to be given an additional 15 years [in prison],” Navalny wrote.
In March 2022, Navalny's jail time was extended to nine years after he was found guilty of embezzlement and contempt of court.
Following a failed appeal against that sentence earlier this month, he was due to be transferred to a strict-regime penal colony.
In his social media post, Navalny quipped that the potential further extension of his jail time is a sign of “affection” from President Vladimir Putin.
“He wants me to be hidden in a safe bunker under the protection of trusted people — just like he himself is.”