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Russian dissident Navalny returns to court amid tensions with the West

Russian dissident Alexei Navalny returned to the court, today, Friday, to be tried on charges of defamation and insult, charges Navalny says are politically motivated, amid escalating tensions between Russia and the West over his imprisonment.


Navalny, the most prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was imprisoned last week for nearly three years on charges of violating parole in a case Navalny describes as trumped-up. The West has condemned Moscow's move and is looking into possible sanctions against Russia.


Earlier on Friday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia was ready to cut ties with the European Union if painful economic sanctions were imposed on it. Moscow accuses the West of overreacting to this issue.


In the defamation case, Navalny is accused of defaming a veteran of World War II who participated in a promotional video supporting the constitutional amendments last year that allowed Putin to run for two more terms in the Kremlin after 2024 if he so desired.


Navalny described the participants in the video as traitors and corrupt whims. He accuses the authorities of using slander and defamation charges to discredit him.


Although the charge, if convicted, carries a prison sentence of up to two years, his lawyer said that Navalny could not be imprisoned because the alleged crime was committed before the law was changed to make it a punishable offense.


It remains unclear whether the judge will accept this analysis. Navalny's arrest and imprisonment sparked street protests across Russia.

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